Tuesday 29 December 2015

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

I took a trip to that there London to take in a show. I was going with my girlfriend and I guess the actual show we saw was not particularly relevant, it was more the overall experience of staying in London and going to the theatre that was important. The first choice of play was no longer running when we were planning to go so she chose The Curious Incident as she'd heard good things about it. She didn't actually know it was about someone who has Asperger's Syndrome (AS) when she chose it, she only found out when doing some research after choosing it.

What's curious (pun unintended) is that the author has gone on record to say he regrets saying that the protagonist has AS. However I think that is some splash-back from The Big Bang Theory effect. Many fans of that show suspect the character Sheldon has AS but the un-confirmed nature of it (he doesn't have AS, by the way) means that people can discuss the issue to their heart's content, with people arguing each side back and forth. When you come out and flat admit your character has AS it robs you of that potential for on-line discussion. Having seen the play though, the character clearly has AS.

I'm not a big fan of live theatre to be honest, and having paid for the tickets even less so. If theatres and producers want more people to start going to the theatre they're going to have to stop charging ridiculous prices. However given that a movie is seen by millions and a play is seen by hundreds, bringing live theatre to the masses may well remain a pipe dream, leaving it only to those who do it not because they enjoy it but because it is so expensive and they think it makes them cultured. £500 family night outs so that Olivia and Finlay have something to write about in English class. Given I could have gone to the cinema with my girlfriend 10 times for the same cost I don't think it was particularly good value for money.

Anyway...the play itself :) I'm going to say some things in general about the play, then I'll say some things that have minor spoilers, and then some things with more major spoilers but I'll preface each section with spoiler warnings so if you plan on seeing the play yourself (or reading the book) please feel free to stop reading at the point you feel most comfortable.

In the production I saw the stage itself was also a character. It was like a big black cube with a rear wall that could move back and forth, and it was possible to project shapes and images on the walls and floor to convey the emotions of the characters or for more pragmatic issues such as indicating doorways. There were about three major, constant characters (the protagonist and his parents) but there were lots of minor characters, or crowd scenes etc, that were all played by a handful of additional actors (some played multiple characters) who all remained on stage, sitting on the seat that the edges of the box formed, stepping into the scene only when needed. So the way the play was physically performed made it quite fluid and dynamic.

The story revolves around a boy with AS who discovers a dead dog one night and his quest to find the person responsible for its death. Now we're getting into some minor spoilers so you have been warned. The first act of the play was probably the one I found the most enjoyable, it was kind of a who-dunnit boy-adventure story that involved humorous interrogations of neighbours etc. The second and third acts ran out of steam somewhat. The second act was particularly dull for myself as it was basically an attempt to replicate how someone with AS perceives the world, however I don't want to pay that much money just to be told something I already know :)

Now we're going to get into some of the more major spoilers so you have been warned. The story gradually morphs into a fairly cliché family drama about divorced parents coping to deal with a psychologically demanding child, and overall it left me feeling less than entertained. It was as if they played all their strongest cards first as the opening was quite entertaining and unique and played heavily with the mindset of someone with AS, whereas the later acts focussed on the baggage of someone with AS. The later acts were pretty similar to any episode of Eastenders you'd care to watch.

The thing I found most interesting was that about half way through the play the protagonist sits an exam and there is a mathematical question asked that he answers, and he then says to the audience that he will explain how he worked the answer out later on. When the play was over, everyone got up to leave and they started filing past us. I stayed in my seat and my girlfriend said "Are we going?" to which I replied "No, I want to hear how he solved the maths problem." People were constantly excuse-me-ing past us and I could sense my girlfriend was getting irritated, so I added "He said he'd explain how he solved it and he hasn't yet". Staring at me, not really knowing how to answer, she was sure I was having one of my "annoying moments" (she hates it when I don't do what normal people are doing) the lights suddenly came on bright and the protagonist exploded on stage...all sorts of mathematical symbols were projected, rotating on the walls, and the protagonist asked if we'd like to know how he solved the maths problem. At this point people shuffled back to their seats en masse for the encore.

How did I know the play wasn't over? Because he said he would explain how he did it, and when someone with AS says they're going to do something, they do it.

1 comment:

Children with special needs said...

I would love to see the play also. It sounds very insteresting.