On August 28th, 2017 it was announced that the Melbourne Theatre Company’s 2018 season would include the award winning show The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night- Time. To say I am excited about the Australian Premiere of this show would be a great understatement.
I first heard of the show a few years ago when I googled theatre and autism and since then it has cemented itself as a firm favourite. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night- Time is about protaginist Christopher Boone a 15 year old boy with Aspergers who documents every single piece of information that he discovers while trying to solve the mystery of who killed Wellington, the neighbour’s pet dog.
When you dim the strobe lights and strip away the special effects you are left with a young man with a disability trying to navigate his way through life any way he can. The themes at the heart of the story are writing as a coping mechanism, the need for order and stability, communication (and miscommunication), stepping out of ones comfort zone and love and relationships.
My name is Nichole and I like Christopher have Aspergers. For me it has lead to many moments of anger, frustration, sadness, confusion and fear but has also been responsible for some of the most hillarious and memorable moments.
Writing for me is my preferred way of communicating with people. When I talk, I often struggle with getting my thoughts from my brain out of my mouth whereas writing gives you the time to find the correct words and emotions. My introduction into writing for the theatre came after I penned my thoughts about a show I had recently been to see. It was only meant to be something small but resulted in a 7 page encyclopedic entry. One of the ladies who read it told me I have a career ahead in Theatre reviewing and the rest they say is history.
Sometimes my writing is a way of developing characters for my writing and I will meticulously document every inch of their being and at other times I will write a letter to someone to explain how I feel about an incident or about them.
Writing for me is my way of making sense of the world around me and I can always fall back on it when I am struggling with verbalising what I want to say. These moments usually occur when I am overloaded by sensory stimuli and / or anxiety. My iPad does have uses other then social media, for me I have used it to type messages for people during times I can’t speak (they do exist!).
One such moment was when I found myself over stimulated in the middle of a small and crowded foyer. I was meeting someone and they knew me well enough that as soon as they saw me they began reading what I had written over my shoulder.
I am also a mad list maker and scheduler. I have excel spreadsheets full of timetables for a trip away and word documents full of what I need to pack. My mum knows that whenever I am going away she is going to receive a phone call asking her if I have forgotten to pack anything.
There are times however where speaking to someone face to face is a better way of communication for that situation such as when I am meeting or spending time with someone. Due to my brain not processing information quick enough I have often said the wrong thing or haven’t understood what is being said to me. The ability to process lessens in times of excitement so if I am meeting someone and they are trying to convey information I often completely miss the point. The funniest moment of misunderstanding I have had is when a performer in her excitement while telling me about the costume piece she would be wearing that night said “I will be wearing a taco hat on stage” so for the whole scene I searched the stage for a yellow, fake taco looking headpiece. It wasn’t until a few months later that I learnt she meant a headpiece that had a fold resembling a taco.
Like it is for Christopher in the story, meeting new people and communicating with them is a massive step outside of my comfort zone. While I am trying to think of what to say I have to also process what the person I am speaking with is telling me. For this reason group conversations larger then five or so people do my head completely in. It is though necessary to push the boundaries of ones comfort zone because if we don’t we can not find answers to our questions, we will not learn how to overcome challenges and problems and we will not learn.
And Father said, “Christopher, do you understand that I love you?”
And I said, “Yes,” because loving someone is helping them when they get into trouble, and looking after them, and telling them the truth […]” (137.9-10)
Love and relationships so I have been told is a complex issue for anyone to understand but as an aspie I struggle to maintain relationships with people. I often come across as clingy and intense because I desperately want the kind of friendships where you talk a lot, go out for coffee and make memories. Growing up I had very few friends, I was always last picked for any team, I sat by myself at lunch or in the staffrooms and I was never invited to birthday parties.
I have been struggling with the concept of real friendship and friendship levels so to speak. How much do you tell someone? Am I coming across as someone who is trying too hard? And how do I let go of people?
To summarise things the biggest thing I learnt from Christopher Boone is not only that one has to step out of ones comfort zone but that to solve a problem sometimes we have to look at it from a different, non traditional angle.
In case you are wondering about the title of my piece it is because whenever I email someone a piece of writing it seems to end up in the drafts folder. I have spent too many hours waiting for a reply to find out they haven’t even received it.
January 11 – February 18
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg