The award winning and highly acclaimed National Theatre production of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time comes to Wolverhampton Grand this February and we can’t wait!
Perhaps one of the most anticipated shows to tour the UK, it tells the story of Christopher, a fifteen year old with an extraordinary brain who is exceptional at maths, while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. When he falls under suspicion of killing Mrs Shears’ dog, it takes him on a journey that upturns his world.
Ahead of the show visiting Wolverhampton Grand we caught up with Scott Graham, Movement Director from Frantic Assembly and Katy Rudd, Associate Director about the show and how they utilised physical theatre to tell Christopher’s story.
How has the ‘Curious’ journey been for you both?
SG | Christopher is an interesting young man, he has this extraordinary brain and that’s very interesting for us as movement directors, because one minute he can just explode and allows us to be extremely dynamic. Working with the character of Christopher has been great, while he may not be able to adapt and understand everyday life, not everybody finds beauty and nuance in maths so it’s been a challenge and a lot of fun to interpret.
KR | With each version of the show we’ve had new parameters to work to. We’ve done this show at the National Theatre, in West End theatres, on Broadway and now a UK tour so we have to have a stage set that can tour and work in lots of different theatres all over the country. For the tour, we haven’t got the moving wall from the London production which we use to show Christopher’s feeling of being closed in. Instead of that, we’ve created these amazing light boxes that we can fly in and will at one point almost encapsulate Christopher to show his world closing in around him. It’s really important to us that we don’t get a ‘watered down’ version on tour. We know that it will be just as good (and could be even better) because we’ve discovered so much and been on such a journey since we started and we can apply all that we’ve learned to the touring production. Hopefully we’ll be able to go back and add the best bits from the tour to the London production and even Broadway.
How do you approach the physical aspects of the show in rehearsal?
SG | It’s crucial to warm up properly at the start of rehearsals but our warm up is for much more than limbering muscles. It’s about building strength and discovering the possibilities of our bodies and getting comfortable with each other’s bodies – it’s a very physical show! These are actors, who aren’t particularly trained dancers. This isn’t dance, however it’s acting through movement but that still comes as a bit of a shock to some of them when we start rehearsing. These guys have come on a lot in the two weeks we’ve been going.
KR | A typical rehearsal for us would be a very physical morning and then we do text-work in the afternoon. We spent some mornings doing circuit training and strength endurance so that they are able to lift someone above their head!
SG | The more they rehearse, the better they get at it and the smoother the movement becomes – we don’t just rehearse the same bits over and over again, there’s a lot of playing games – getting actors used to using their bodies and interacting with each other. We do the same things with our professional actors that we do in schools and it really works! In schools we found a lot of boys were often scared to touch each other or get close to one another in dance classes and workshops, but on the football field if one of them scores a goal they’re all over each other to celebrate and they won’t worry about it there – you’ve got to take some of those experiences and bring them into the rehearsal room.
Did you choreograph anything before the first rehearsals or was it developed in rehearsal with the original cast? Has it stayed that way ever since?
SG | We developed a lot of the original movement with the first cast but things have changed massively since. If we go back to the original show at the National Theatre it was in the round – it didn’t have any walls like the West End, Broadway and touring production. The physicality has had to change with each production, but for it not to change, in some ways, is a missed opportunity. Katy and I have worked on every cast change and every new production of the show and each cast is different, they may see things differently or move differently and for us, that’s exciting.
SG | I read the script and there’s no stage direction and I think that’s a great generosity on behalf of the scriptwriter Simon Stephens – it’s not laziness! He wants to collaborate with people who have creative eyes and we all put our trust in each other to bring our elements of the show together to best tell the story. The journey to London from Swindon takes about 25 minutes on stage to complete – that was a big, big task. When I first read it I thought “let’s cut some of this… there’s too much!” but it was only once we’d finished the sequence and I saw how exhausted our original Christopher Luke Treadaway was that I saw what a genius Simon Stephens was. Christopher had to go through that epic journey otherwise it’s not worthy of what’s in the original story – this was a massive deal for him. Otherwise, it would just be like one of us getting on a train at Swindon and off at Paddington – pretty boring! It was Simon’s commitment to putting chaos on stage that allowed us to really deliver what Christopher goes through on that journey away from home.
Was this Frantic Assembly’s first collaboration with The National Theatre, or Simon Stephens?
SG | This was the first time Frantic Assembly had worked with any of the team on ‘Curious’ – a friend of Simon Stephens’ had given him some DVDs of our work and said we should work together. He absorbed these, kept us in mind and when this project came about he came calling and dragged director Marianne Elliott along for a meeting and thank God he did because the end result has been an absolute game-changer! Simon and I are working on a new project together for 2017.
SG | On other shows, many of the creative teams never have to create that work again, it stays the same and the show is replicated all over the world – it’s never different. With our show, each version is unique – they’re all different somehow because of the space they’re in. It doesn’t get any quicker to train the actors in the movement sequences, and we’re always adapting – it’s almost like starting afresh every time.
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time performs at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from 17th – 21st February 2014. For more information and to book tickets click here.