If a play or film is based on a (famous) book, I would normally read it before going to see it. I broke my rule last week. I wanted to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, because since coming to London in September I have been hearing so much about it. After queueing for day tickets for one hour and finally ending up with tickets for the balcony, where you had to lean forward to see the stage, I wasn’t in the best mood as I arrived at the Apollo Theatre. Just moments after the show started this changed. I was amazed not only by the use of storytelling, and transporting a book to the stage in this way, but also by the power of the acting. It gripped me even though I was sitting up high and not even seeing the actors’ faces properly.
The language of the actors and the way of telling this very peculiar and touching story let me think about the possibilities of theatre. Marianne Elliott’s almost Brechtian approach, letting the actors stay onstage and sit on the sides while not in action, added another level of excitement to this production. The use of all the lights and video installations reminded me a lot of the Sherlock Holmes series starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and raised the question of whether Sir Arthur Conan Doyle imagined his great detective as autistic. After reading Mark Haddon’s book on which the play is based, I now know that Sherlock Holmes is one of the protagonist’s (15-year-old Christopher Boone) favourite fictional characters. Another connection.
This also made me wonder about people on the autistic spectrum, and their feelings and relations to something or in this case someone. If you google “Sherlock Holmes and Asperger’s” you can find a ton of links leading you to different articles and forum discussions about misdiagnosis, the differences between autism and sociopathy, or fictional characters with undiagnosed mental illnesses. An issue in itself, but nevertheless worth reading about if you are a Sherlock fan.
The production of The Curious Incident also got me thinking about truth. Particularly about telling the truth and the relief that comes from doing that. The hero of the story, Christopher, has to tell the truth all the time – he cannot tell lies. This characteristic of Asperger’s Syndrome also goes along with the inability to tell jokes or understand irony and metaphors. Christopher has to learn to understand sayings or metaphors by remembering their meaning without “getting” them. And this made me think about origins of sayings and their meanings, which often differ from the actual use in the English language or any language. It is the same in German, which is my mother tongue. The word by word approach to metaphors reveals a new perspective on things – Christopher’s perspective, you might say.
Christopher Boone always tells the truth. He cannot lie. This also leads to strange encounters with other human beings, because – let’s face it – our society wants us to lie on a lot of different, though often small, occasions. Sometimes just because something is considered as common manner or common morality. For example, our response to a simple question like “How are you?”. It was refreshing to see someone telling the truth and I wondered about my own relationship with “the truth” and that it may be refreshing for my life as well to consider telling it more often than not, within social norms.
Photo by Flickr user _elsiecakes under a Creative Commons licence.