The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is one of the finest murder-mystery plays to hit the stage of the UK in recent times.
The story is uniquely told and is much more than a regular whodunit. It involves elements of love, betrayal and being different. Oh yes, there are also clues, deductions, an odd victim and suspense. It is a welcome offering of fresh fare on the theatre dining table.
The Curious Incident is a first person account by Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15 year old boy, whose self-assessment runs thus, "a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties." He lives in Swindon, Wiltshire with his father Ed Boone, a single parent who is a boiler engineer. Christopher’s mother, we are told, died of a heart attack two years ago.
Christopher finds Wellington, a large black poodle belonging to his neighbour, Eileen Shears dead in her garden, with a garden fork sticking out of him. Christopher is suspected of the crime. This suspicion sends Christopher on a mission to solve the awful crime and find the slayer of the dog in the manner of his hero, Sherlock Holmes.
Christopher has severe autism (one of his “behavioural difficulties”) whose thinking is visually driven. He uses various media such as charts, graphs, pictures and diagrams to figure out and research the murder. He also keeps a diary. These tools, combined with Christopher’s affliction only serve to set the story and detecting process apart. The character is unlike any of your childhood detective-heroes.
Like all good mysteries, this one takes you on a journey filled with one surprising and unexpected turn after another. In the course of finding Wellington’s killer, he comes across secrets of his own family and those of his neighbours. It also sets him on a scary journey into places far from his familiar street and relationships.
The brilliance of the story lies in the fact that you (as audience member) are quickly drawn into Christopher’s ‘detection’ process. You too become the investigator, not just a bystander who is standing outside and can only admire and applaud the work of the detective-on-show.
The Stage Adaptation
The play is an adaptation by Simon Stevens of Mark Haddon’s novel of the same name. It is directed by Marianne Elliot. It premiered at the National Theatre in July 2012 and played there till the 27th of October. The show is transferring to the Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, London, from March to May 2013.
The Curious Incident won the Whitbread Book Awards for Best Novel and Book of the Year. It has also won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book and the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. The book was joint winner of the 2004 Boeke Prize, won the 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year award. It has so far sold almost three million copies worldwide.