By: R. Liaw and A. Attuch
A stage adaptation of the famous British novel "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”, written by Mark Haddon, was organised and performed at our school a few weeks ago, by the St. Paul's Theatre Company featuring many dedicated students. The story outlines the adventures of an autistic girl, who investigates the murder of her neighbour’s dog. At first, she searches for who could have killed poor Wellington, but as the story unfolds, we get a better insight to her backstory, how she overcomes challenges, her relationships with different characters, and how she deals with day-to-day episodes.
An enticingly interesting choice was made when adapting the novel to a play: the use of three actors to portray the same character. Three girls who portrayed the protagonist, Christina, wearing the exact same outfit to indicate they were the same person. At first, this was a bit confusing to understand as a viewer, however, everything was made clear in the first scene. This act was slightly haunting (props to the music department), but extremely effective as a prologue, which showed all three Christina's following a daily routine, in sync, twice. This was a wise way of starting the play, as it would have any doubts cleared up straight away.
Throughout the rest of the play, the three actresses were used to represent the thoughts and constant dialogues going on inside the character's head. This gave us a better insight of how the protagonist’s mind worked that you wouldn’t get in a typical play. It was particularly important for this performance, being that one of the biggest topics behind the story is the protagonist's different way of thinking due to her Asperger's syndrome. Contrary to what many people may assume, Asperger's is simply having a different way of receiving and processing information; it makes an individual's senses sharper. It helped us thoroughly understand how this does not make her any inferior to other people; she simply reacts in a different way to certain happenings. An example of this, which was presented in the play, is that she feels very overwhelmed if she hears too many sounds, and people around her are moving too quickly. Having the thoughts of Christina being a tangible concept in the play made her unique thought process more explicit. You can easily make connections between her not being understood by others emotionally, and how she responds to that physically. This allows a deeper and more detailed representation of her character.
As we walked towards our seats, we were surprised not to come face-to-face with the wide array of props and an extravagant set as been seen in adaptations of 'The sound of Music' and 'The Chrysalids'. At first, we were tremendously confused, as the scenery usually plays a hugely important part in indicating where each scene is taking place. But, just as the very first scene began, the whole audience immediately knew that the performance did not need any of that. Indeed, the 'props' played a vital part in setting the scene; because the actors were the set! We had never seen such a creative, original and imaginative way of not only contrasting the protagonist's story, but of portraying Christina's view of the world through her eyes. The interaction between her and the surrounding characters/objects was a totally abstract and surrealist idea, but due to the well-structured flow of the play, it curiously fit right in. It was almost as though the minimalistic approach of the set made the emotional and mental aspect of the play a lot more empathic and personal to the character.