Friday, 12 December 2014

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

I read this book not long after it came out, when I was about 13, and it remains one of my favourite books even though it did create some misconceptions. Cat and I decided to see the play in London, so we booked tickets for the evening of my last day at work. The last show I'd seen was Matilda, which
was a complete disappointment, so I wasn't expecting too much especially at comparitively cheap ticket prices.

The show was incredible. The actor playing Christopher, the main character, got it spot on. His mannerisms, his way of seeing the world and how he expresses it, I felt it all alongside him. His simple drawing of a smiley face to show that he knew it meant 'happy' made me smile, and in one scene where he imagines himself in space with his pet rat Toby, I started flapping (thankfully theatres are dark!) with delight at how beautifully touching it was. Then there are the scenes with his mother, where she acts so realistically her frustration with her son, with herself, with life. I could see there so clearly my own frustrations with my brother Christopher (who's at the other end of the autism spectrum), in particular when we were younger and I didn't so much understand his autism, and why he couldn't be like other children. A scene where Christopher was overwhelmed at a London Underground station showed perfectly how I often felt inside when taking the tube to and from work each day, and Christopher's father's attempts to get his son to communicate with him made me want to cry with how much I wished (and, I'll confess, at times still wish) that my brother would talk to me.

At the end of the first act, Christopher decides that he is going to London. While he's explaining his thoughts and plans, he sets out a long train track in a pattern across the stage. At the end, a model train lights up and moves along the track - I can't really describe why, but just that small scene made me feel that wonder that I felt on Christmas morning as a child. I used to love trains growing up, and seeing this come to life was, to me, magical.

Each prime numbered seat had a note on it (the fictional Christopher loves prime numbers), offering a prize to anyone whose names add up to a prime number (where A=1, B=2 etc). It turns out that my full name does (233), so at the end Cat and I went to collect my prize, a badge with the smiley face drawn earlier on in the play, which went straight on my noticeboard when I got home.

During the play I smiled, I cried, but most of all I felt. Just as I'd felt the book was about me when I was 13, I felt that this play was about me and how I sometimes feel as an Asper, and also how I used to feel about my brother's autism. I wonder how my parents would see it, would they see anything of themselves in the parents? Would they see me or my brother in the fictional Christopher, or both? Cat and I saw the mother in completely different lights, that was interesting to compare afterwards. I understood her frustrations more having been raised alongside someone with more profound autism who has shown a lot of challenging behaviour (he's a lot more mellow now on the whole), and also as someone who has worked with kids who have special needs, and as someone who hopes to be a parent one day.

I don't think I'd ever been so touched by watching a portrayal of autism.