By TJ Lewis
“I would have found it difficult writing this a year ago,” The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time author Mark Haddon shared with The Guardian in 2013. Haddon said that he talked about Curious Incident so much that he almost forgot what his reasoning behind the story was. Time after time, when he would explain it to someone, he felt like his answers were becoming unreliable. It got to the point where he almost didn’t feel comfortable talking about the novel at all.
It wasn’t until he gave the rights for the adaptation of Curious Incident to playwright Simon Stephens that Haddon had a new spark of energy for the story.
When playwright Simon Stephens and the original design team first got together, novelist Haddon had two high hopes, which he shared with The Guardian: “First that they would use the novel to create a great piece of theatre, and second, more selfishly, that they would make Curious Incident new again – that I would sit in the stalls on press night and feel as if I was seeing it for the first time.”
Not only did they deliver, but Haddon said that they far exceeded his expectations, making him not only see the vision of the play realized, but also triggering his original reason for writing it.
The creative team’s work on the staged production reinforced Haddon’s original concept that “the novel is not about disability, but about difference.”
When the story of Curious Incident is on stage, the audience is able to experience the visceral reality of how Christopher interprets the universe. Christopher maneuvers through the world in a singular way because of his autism. By manifesting that point of view on stage, we are able to hear, see, and feel with him.
The result of Christopher’s autism inherently makes him an outsider, but what is beautiful about Haddon’s work is that “outsiders” have a profound effect on the world around them. Haddon went on to say that what draws a writer to the idea of characters being “outsiders” is that they offer a view of us from the sidelines.
According to playwright Simon Stephens, the irony is that “Christopher sees stories as lies, and theatre as dishonest. But it’s through the lie that you find the greater truth.”
Since the play’s premiere in 2012, Stephens’ live adaptation of Haddon’s novel has helped millions of people around the world encounter this greater truth by watching the story unfold onstage, complete with theatrical sights and sounds that further immerse audiences into Christopher’s experience in a way that is beyond what is possible on the page.
“Making my novel into a play seemed a preposterous idea,” shared Haddon with The Guardian. “In the end, it reminded me of the reasons I wrote it in the first place.”
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays in FST’s Gompertz Theatre through March 29. For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.