Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: Simon Stephens
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service
Estimated Runtime: 2 hours
Number of Characters: 10
Cast Requirements: 4 women, 4 men, 2 either
Time Period: Present Day
Production Requirements: modern day, simple costuming; flexible set that can make quick and simple scene changes;
A dog has been murdered with a garden fork, and teenager Christopher is determined to find the murderer. Christopher has autism and excels in facts, math, and science. He has trouble dealing with social situations, which can make detective work a challenge. Christopher lives with his father, Ed, who warns him repeatedly to stop investigating the murder. Christopher persists, and one afternoon while searching for clues when Ed is out, Christopher finds some recent letters from his mother, the mother Ed told him had died years before. Christopher is devastated and then finds out that Ed in fact was the dog’s murderer. No longer feeling safe, Christopher embarks on a solo, secret, and difficult journey to London to stay with his mother. While there, his life is thrown into chaos as he deals with the man his mother left with and the changes in his new situation. When Judy leaves her current partner and takes Christopher back home, he is stronger and more confident and slowly repairs his relationship with Ed.
The play is based on the novel of the same name and follows the story closely, using much of the original dialogue. In Christopher we see an accurate depiction of an autistic child with descriptions in his own words explaining why he would behave a certain way. This inside glimpse into an autistic child’s brain will help the audience gain sympathy for those in similar situations. The play is gritty and realistic, containing a fair amount of language, some of it extreme. The situations involving death, adultery, and some physical abuse along with the language make the show suitable for older teens or adults, though it is sometimes recommended for a younger audience. Various characters share the storytelling, including speaking another character’s line occasionally, and we discover well into the show that Christopher’s schoolteacher has been turning the book he is writing about the situation into a play. Though the storytelling convention works, the “play” convention distracts and adds some confusion rather than adding to the already well-told, sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes beautiful plot of the play.