The Audience

A New Perspective on their Role

By Nathan Durkin

This Thursday, I went to see Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, adapted into a play, and directed by Dr. Latrelle Bright. I didn’t know anything about the story beforehand. I tried to keep it that way so that I could get the full experience of the story Dr. Bright wanted to get across with as little interference as possible. One idea that I had going into the show, however, was the idea of what it means to be the audience of a play. While many shows have slight differences in what the audience is supposed to do, they always have a similar sort of feel to them, and at this point, I feel like I know what it feels like to be an audience member. I thought I knew, anyway. And then I saw this show, and all of my ideas about what being in the audience feels like got turned on their head.

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in the snow
Taken by Nathan Durkin on 3/7/19

I walked to Krannert Center cold but excited for the show I was about to see. I had seen a presentation made by Dr. Bright beforehand about the usage of props. The props were the first sign of something different about this show – only using wooden blocks cut into different shapes, a whiteboard, some arches, some lights, and a projector for the most part. However, I didn’t really expect this to work as much more than a stylistic difference at the time.

My ticket for the show.
Taken by Nathan Durkin on 3/7/19

Actually seeing the show, however, was an experience like no other (If you don’t know much about the story, you can find basic information here). What I thought were just props – blocks on the ground, projections on the screen, drawings on a whiteboard – felt more like insights into Christopher’s mind. Even the actors felt like they were a part of Christopher’s head. I had never experienced this style of play before. The play really was the only example I know of that feels like a 1st person play.

Most plays are quite clearly 3rd person. The audience is there to watch events happen in the story on the stage. Sometimes, audiences are expected to laugh, to talk, to interact with the story somehow. However, even in the most interactive of shows, the audience feels like they’re watching a story unfold. This show had no real interactions with the audience, but the way it used the actors, props, technology, and everything else, was able to give me the feeling of being Christopher. The setting for the play seems to be all what is going on in Christopher’s head. When he’s at the train station in London, noises and images and lights are flashing and buzzing, the actors are dancing in a chaotic way, and I myself felt overwhelmed by the chaos. Everything I saw was from Christopher’s perspective, everything seemed to be happening in his head. The effects of the flashing lights, the backgrounds being drawn on the screen and manipulated, every single part of the show just sucked me into Christopher’s brain, made me see the show from his perspective, made me feel like I was bound to him somehow. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The story itself is a very interesting one. I haven’t read the book, but based off of this interpretation I would assume that it has a very similar first-person feeling to it, linking the reader to Christopher. However, I don’t think that reading the book can give quite the same effect that watching this play did for me. Everything about it was so stylistically different, and it all came together wonderfully to give me one of the most unique and amazing experiences I’ve had in a play.

A picture of my playbook.
Taken by Nathan Durkin on 3/7/19

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