Our kingly essay writing service - your peace of mind!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

← A Good Man is Hard to Find by O’ConnorMystics, Mavericks and Merrymakers by Stephanie Wellen Levine →

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a book written by Mark Haddon in 2003. It was adapted to the stage by a talented English playwright, Simon Stephens in cooperation with the author. This adaptation won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2013 and the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre (Tony Award) for Best Play in 2015.

Get a price quote

Changes Made to Make the Novel Stageworthy

Characterization and Narration Changes

The name of the main character in The Curious Incident is Christopher Boone. Christopher has an uncommon mental condition, and it is hard for him to communicate with other people. His mind is very fascinating to the audience. He attempts to explain everything he perceives by the means of pure logical patterns and conclusions. He is a very determined teenager with a mathematical mind. Christopher resists all metaphors and emotions and hardly manages to express or recognize it. In his opinion, metaphor
should be called a lie because a pig is not like a day and people do not have skeletons in their cupboards. And when I try and make a picture of the phrase in my head it just confuses me because imagining an apple in someone's eye doesn't have anything to do with liking someone a lot and it makes you forget what the person was talking about. (Haddon & Stephens, 2013, p. 11)
Being the main character in the novel, Christopher is the only protagonist, and all events described in the books are expressed from his very particular point of view.

There are numerous essential differences between writing a novel and writing a play. Whereas in novels authors often choose to concentrate on multiple verbal structures, thoughts and feelings of the central characters and their inner world, playwrights build their work around the actual events, things, people, their actions and the drama behind them. A play is first and foremost for the spectators to see on stage. For example, in a play, the most powerful line that makes the audience cry or laugh can consist of only one word. In Stephens’s adaptation of The Curious Incident, the biggest laugh is caused by the line ‘Okay’, whereas in Haddon’s book, there are many deliberate and thoughtful linguistic components carefully incorporated by the author.

Working with such a character in terms of dramatic performance on stage and showing his story in a way that would be appealing to the viewers appears understandably challenging. In my opinion, Stephens’ play “Curious Incident” is faithful to the original novel, but it is surely not the same. This is explained by the fact that what works in the medium of books and literature does not necessarily work in the medium of on-stage performances. An apt example of this would be descriptive passages and narrators. Therefore, Stephens makes Christopher three-dimensional and slightly changes his story.

In Haddon’s novel, Christopher’s teacher, Siobhan, invokes him to write a novel. This should help him exercise his wonderful memory and look at his actions and behaviors from aside, thus widening his perspective. This would not work on stage; therefore, Stephens’ Christopher directs a play and interacts with other students in his school. However, it appears very challenging for him because he is very uncomfortable with any kind of lie. He says that he does not “like acting because it is pretending that something is real when it is not really real at all so it is like a kind of lie” (Haddon & Stephens, 2013, p. 53). This circumstance provides a better outline for his character and gives a clearer frame to his personality.

The significance of Siobhan’s character is quite distinct. She plays the role of a mediator between Christopher and the world, explaining many things to him and helping him confront many situations. She drove him to come to certain conclusions by himself rather than simply telling him what to do. The relationships between central characters, such as the complicated story of Christopher’s parents, his relationship with his father and the way he communicates with his mother, his lovely elderly neighbor from across the street that truly sympathizes with him and is anxious to help the boy, are also amply depicted in the play. The scenes where Christopher is unable to give his parents a hug or come closer to them and show his love are especially touching. Such is the moment where he watches the rain and thinks about the chain, through which water goes in the nature and what it carries around the world. In this moment, his father is looking at him desperately, trying to understand and connect with his son. He asks him to spread his fingers out in a fan a touches his fingers and thumbs. Over the years, this has been the only way to express his love for the son without causing him physical and emotional discomfort. Such scenes generate incredible emotional resonance with the audience.

The Passage of Time in Each Medium

A crucial element in the onstage adaptation of The Curious Incident is, of course, the set and other directing decisions. A very intense and profound piece of the play is Christopher’s journey to London when he runs away from home to live with his mother. The staging of that journey is very skillful and powerful. Christopher often feels frightened, confused, and stressed, and these emotions are dramatically conveyed on stage. It is accentuated by balletic elements and visual displays of what is going on in Christopher’s mind artistically projected on the walls, especially during his first encounter with an escalator.

Stephens’s Curious Incident also features certain scenes that can be perceived as an attempt to manipulate the audience on the emotional level. For example, in the original novel, Christopher does not truly forgive his father, and the readers see how immensely complicated this episode of life has been both for Christopher and his parents. However, in the end of the play, the audience appears under the impression that he actually reconnects with his father and that their relationship goes back to being a loving one. This is a false insinuation but it certainly achieves its aim and contributes to the cultivation of a general uplifting and positive impression from the play. This speculation is built on the fact that the concept of forgiveness is abstract, and it is strengthened by the final scene where Christopher’s father gives him a puppy. However, the viewers still see Christopher’s uneasy feelings when he is being very protective of the puppy, trying to guard him ‘in case somebody comes in’.

Among the most profound scenes is the one when, overwhelmed with emotions on the train station, he actually strides around the walls. The significance of visual elements in the play is hard to be overvalued. Such tools as the tornado of words, which appears when Christopher feels overloaded with what the information and emotions coming from different people that surround him, is very effective to generate the necessary impression among the viewers. So are other smaller visual elements such as the use of color throughout the play to illustrate the way Christopher feels about things and people. For example, the memories connected to his mother are always prevailingly blue, whereas his interactions with Siobhan are generally orange.

Gains and Losses in Making Transition to the Stage

In his novel, Haddon never described Christopher’s appearance. However, in Stephens’ adaptation, the characters become three-dimensional and the viewers are able to see them not through the prism of Christopher’s mind but from aside. This enables them to analyze the events of the play and behaviors of the characters independently.

Haddon never identifies Christopher’s mental condition, and neither does Stephens. All the viewers know is that he does not like to be touched, he has panic attacks whenever placed in an unknown place and surrounded by many people, and he cannot understand or express emotions. However, Christopher is fond of animals and nature, and his observations, ideas and conclusions are truly fascinating. He attends a special school for children with different mental and physical disabilities, and his condition is described as ‘behavioral problems’. I find that this fact is rather crucial to the story because it forms the main message behind it – it draws attention to the lives of those who perceive the world differently than the majority of people. The reality is different, and so is the reality of those who surround them.

Get 15% OFF
your first order
with discount code: empire15
Order now

In my opinion, Stephens’ adaptation illuminates the original novel and causes it to acquire texture when acted out. Christopher’s role in a play goes beyond sharing information. He has very distinct desires, interests, and priorities. This is also true about other characters. Despite the moments in the play, which seem not to follow event in Haddon’s original novel, I believe that the adaptation was very successful and that it conveys the main message behind the story, thus achieving its main purpose.

Our writers will write a book review for you and you'll receive the highest level of quality!

Related essays
  1. Mystics, Mavericks and Merrymakers by Stephanie Wellen Levine
  2. White Noise: Is Honesty the Best Policy?
  3. A Good Man is Hard to Find by O’Connor
  4. The Role of Fate in Oedipus the King
Live Chat