A Brain Made Out of Straight Lines: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

© Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, 2012

What would you do if you find your neighbour’s dog dead in front of your doorstep in the middle of the night? Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy with “behavioural problems” decided to take the role of the detective himself. In the process, he uncovered mysteries about his parents, which disrupted his understanding of the world and himself.


© National Theatre

Christopher is diagnosed with autism, which is a developmental disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behaviour.  In an interview with the cast and producers, also found out that people with autism process one piece of information as thoroughly as they can before they move on to the next, thus concepts and ideas are rather stationary. 


In the theatre, Christopher’s cognitive process was aided with intricate technical props. The floor of the stage act as a giant blackboard for the audience, where Christopher explains his logical thinking as if he is the lecturer giving his students a seminar to his inner thoughts. The floor design also consisted of grids and squares, signifying that he sees everything as straight lines, including his own paths. 


Christopher has many rules he lives by, one of the rules is that he is unable to articulate and cope with lies as he sees the world so literally. Lies, which are sometimes said to be “alternate truths” simply doesn’t exist, therefore he cannot produce or see them at all. The idea contributed to a few laughable scenes in the play as Christopher offend people unintentionally, he does not improvise like normal people do. Christopher’s perseverance of truth drove him to go to London to find his mother, after discovering that Ed has been lying to him about her death.


© Marianne Elliott

To get to London he must board a train, at a train station. Christopher dislikes any physical contact and only allow his parents to touch him by the hands, in the form of a gentle high-five. I didn’t notice how frequently small body contact happens until I see Christopher’s anxiety while he was in a crowded train station. He had to mutter his own rhythm of walking and made sharp right-angled turns to dodge people, following the grids on the stage floor. This representation of his mind and the exaggerated physical reactions to frustration enhances audience understanding of Christopher’s world of order, that a single sway from the designated course could result in catastrophic ends.


His motions seem bizarre to people, yet, nobody seemed to see it as something he cannot control. To Christopher, it’s just how he is and has always been. People often refuse to understand before jumping into conclusion. Christopher signifies the struggle of indifference. Combined with Luke Treadaway’s brilliant acting, Christopher become relatable to everyone in the audience. While mental illnesses are invisible to untrained eyes, stereotypes cast those people further out of society. To me, the play gave me a new perspective, that people with special needs are already suffering so much inside of their own heads. The last thing we want is to discriminate them and add on to that suffering. We should all be more accepting and patient to those we find peculiar because there are times that we are the strange one.


Cinemas like AMC and Broadway Circuit in Hong Kong put up plays from the National Theatre regularly. Unfortunately, this play is no longer live, but there are many more to choose from. If you are interested in theatre definitely have a look at what they have to offer recently!

By Sin Wai Ying Rachel


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Categories: Theatre

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