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REVIEWS: Books

CHILDREN’S THEATRE MAGAZINE Book Review: The Curious incident of overwhelmed parents, broken marriages, problematic policemen and how to deal with a troubled autistic child in Mark Haddon’s classic novel that everyone should read

It’s not easy raising a child with special needs. Relationships crack, families splinter and lives are changed as Mark Haddon’s 2003 fictional memoire The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time reveals. It doesn’t have to be like that as all families are different and many cope and even thrive. But for the Boone’s the impact of Christopher on their lives was a relationship breaker.

Part detective novel, part coming of age narrative and part exploration of fifteen-year—old Christopher Boone’s mind as he struggles to understand the adult world around him, his account of a dramatic chapter in his life is a classic novel of our times and a landmark in contemporary literature.

Published in 2016, the story of how the highly intelligent but socially problematical Christopher with Asperger’s Syndrome comes to terms with his parents, their relationships and in particular the mystery of who had killed Wellington the dog is a page turning and gripping who-dunnit accessible to adults and teenagers alike.

Narrated in the first person by Christopher as he examines the dark domestic evidence and begins his investigation the story charts his mind set and relationships with the main characters within the unfolding drama. And one of the unsung heroes in Siobhan, his key worker at school who understands and helps to educate Christopher as he matures.

Christopher’s father struggles to deal with his problems of how to cope with a world he doesn’t understand – and in a way his dad manages the best as he mainly remains calm and accepts his son as he is. If only there wasn’t that huge lie that blows the plot wide open – but then we wouldn’t have a story.

Harry Mottram

More from Harry at http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/

The play is scheduled to tour in the UK this autumn. Details at https://www.curiousonstage.com/tour/

It will be at the Bristol Hippodrome from 13-17 October 2020 – Covid-19 permitting.

A short film on the play can be seen here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01jyhll

The original trailer for the West End production can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXcckxxLc2Y

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BOOK REVIEW The man who made a plea for puppetry to be recognised as an artform (back in the 1950s)

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The History of the English Puppet Theatre. By George Speaight.
First published in the 1950s and updated in 1990 this could seem an outdated volume on an aspect of theatre that had long since disappeared apart from at children’s parties and on TV. Since its reprint a quarter of a century ago puppetry has re-entered the mainstream and is no longer seen as ‘just for kids’.
Last month we reviewed Dead Dog in a Suitcase by Kneehigh – a musical play for older children and teenagers that used used puppetry as part of the show. Today it appears puppetry has come of age where it can seemlessly form part of a play watched by adults and no longer confined to Punch and Judy and other traditional puppet shows for children.
Speaight traces the origins of puppetry from the masked performers of Rome and Greece to the mummers of the middle ages, the comedie d’art of medieval France and finally the ealy puppet theatres of Civil War England.
Meet the Lupinos who travelled to this country in the time of Shakespeare, and the Jones family who toured their puppet theatre in 1630s London. In flowing prose Speaight charts Punchinello, Jacobean puppetry and the rise of Georgian Patagonian theatre and Mr Punch.
A puppeteer himself Speaight’s book may seem dated ending as it does in the 1920s but there is much detail here together with a plea for the world of puppetry to be taken seriously. His wish has come true in part. Writing about the 20th century revival he declares: “Puppeteers in England today ask for three things. They ask for a permanent puppet theatre in London… They ask for intelligent informed and constructive criticism… …and they ask for for the recognition…”
We don’t have a national puppet theatre, but at least his wishes for puppetry to have come of age have taken place within a decade of his death in 2005.
Rupert Bridgwater
The book is still available online and at most lending libraries.

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