The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time returns to the West End
- Credit: Archant
Just over a year ago, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time announced itself to the theatre world.
Up for countless nominations at the Laurence Olivier Awards, the stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel walked away with no less than a joint record seven gongs, including for best new play, best director and best actor.
The show’s momentum, seemingly, was building faster than anyone could have imagined, but then last December things quite literally came crashing down to earth.
“The whole night was devastating for everybody and a huge shock,” says actress Sarah Woodward of the moment the ceiling of the Apollo Theatre collapsed upon a stunned audience. While, thankfully, no-one was seriously injured, the incident nonetheless forced the closure of the theatre and the production, and it is only now that The Curious Incident is returning to reclaim its throne in the West End.
The new production will star Graham Butler as Christopher, a 15-year-old maths genius trying to solve the mystery of a murdered dog while also coming to terms with his Asperger’s syndrome. His main ally and supportive teacher, Siobhan, is played by Woodward, who will also act as narrator when the shows opens at the Gielgud Theatre on June 24.
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The 51-year-old West Hampstead resident, who did not appear in the previous production, explains: “If you can imagine most people have had a teacher that they remember or love or enjoyed learning with and that’s Siobhan – she’s that teacher times a hundred. She’s not just his mentor, she’s his guardian angel and has complete empathy for what he’s going through.
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“It’s almost a play within a play. There are lots of flashbacks to events that happened to Christopher at school and then we move forward to when he comes to London to find his mum. It’s quite difficult to explain, but once you see it, it’s not difficult at all. The only thing I’m having trouble with is deciding who I am at any one point.”
Indeed, while Woodward is always Siobhan, her role as narrator means she often has to read aloud extracts from Christopher’s diary – one of the play’s narrative innovations – and articulate the emotions his condition sometimes inhibits him from expressing.
The actress adds that while the show “isn’t a play about autism”, it does provide a valuable insight into a different was of seeing the world.
“Sometimes Christopher just provides a purer way of seeing things; it’s a bit like a maths question. When he talks about looking out of the window on a train, where other people see cows and trees in a field, he’ll know exactly how many cows there are.
“He’ll notice things like that in an in-depth way but, for him, often that gets too much. The pressure is so intense that he can’t quite cope with the life he’s made for himself and the older he gets, the more difficult that becomes. It’s not been a hard rehearsal period in terms of trying to understand that, it’s just been an eye-opener.”
Alongside the other new cast members, there are also three actors who have remained from the original Apollo run and they are all keen to pick up from where the production left off. One advantage for Woodward is that she came to it first as a fan.
“We took our two daughters to see the show about a year ago, long before I knew I’d be doing it, and they just loved it, so they have been very excited to hear I’m now involved. It’s very unusual for a show to have such a gap and then come back, but its previous success has made it possible.”
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs from June 24 until February 17, 2015. Visit nationaltheatre.org.uk.