Behind The Scenes: Q&A With Cast Members of Curious Incident
| By Shaun Nolan
After a fantastic performance of London’s hottest play on the West End on the 1st of September, cast members Stephen Beckett, Pearl Mackie, Simon Victor and Penelope McGhie from The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time took to the stage to answers questions from the audience about anything and everything to do with the show. Luckily, I was in attendance to not only see how well the show is still doing but to also take a look at what the cast had to say and what they shared was rather interesting.
The first question came after a short awkward silence when they were asked what inspired the show. After the person who asked was reminded that the show is inspired by Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel, they went on to explain that the play’s bookwriter Simon Stephens is good friends with Haddon and they decided to present the idea of the play to the National Theatre. The show did initially seem like it would be a challenge to create but after some fantastic work from the entire creative team, it all pulled off; the original production of the show that ran at the National Theatre in the summer of 2012 was actually in the round, so it was interesting to hear how they then had to adapt the show once again to present the show at the Apollo in the West End when it debuted there in 2013. It’s hard to imagine the show without all the magical effects that the three walls have to offer. They also mentioned when a member of the ensemble fell sick the week before and Simon Victor and Penelope McGhie were learning scenes in the wings before they had to go on just to make sure they could fill in for the actress who had to suddenly stop performing in that performance; it was proof of the camaraderie and teamwork that goes into this spectacular production.
Another person also asked if Mark Haddon knew anyone who was autistic when he was creating the story and if any of the cast members up on stage knew anyone autistic either. Stephen Beckett started answering this question by saying that they were pretty sure Haddon didn’t know anyone directly who was autistic and that the story idea came from the random image of a dog with a garden fork in its side springing to his mind one day and making him laugh with the thought’s random nature. From there, he crafted the story that is now gracing bookshelves and theatres across the globe. In response to whether any of the cast members knew anyone autistic, they all said that they didn’t but that they had gone to a school for the autistic and spent an afternoon with them; interacting with them to help them understand what goes through their minds. Penelope McGhie commented on how “eye-opening and beautiful that really was”. Pearl Mackie then also said that Sion Daniel Young who plays Christopher in the show had done the same, but had spent a lot more time around children who were at around the same stage on the autism spectrum as Christopher himself to truly embody the character and do it justice.
Someone in the audience then asked if they found the physically demanding aspect of the play a challenge in comparison to anything else they have ever done and they all talked about their warm up process and learning to keep up with the speed of it as the rehearsal process went on; it was the norm for them now. I then chirped up with the penultimate question to ask if they found the emotional aspect of the show draining and a similar response came back: it was something that they got used to working with in the rehearsal process so accessing those deep emotions wasn’t too hard for them anymore, but they did credit the leading actors for managing that too because of their roles being more emotionally demanding than the ensemble’s. Penelope McGhie was actually on for Siobhan the night of the talkback and as well as saying how hard it was to work with Siobhan’s very middle-ground stance on everything mixed with her clear concern for Christopher at points in the show, she spoke of how it was even more emotionally demanding for her to cover Christopher’s mother in the show because of the emotional rollercoaster she has to go through. Simon Victor then closed that question by saying he sees Sion Daniel Young standing stage left for five minutes at the top of every show making sure he is totally in the zone, ready and perfect.
The talkback ended with the obvious question of the future of the show. Simon Victor spoke of the Broadway production and US and UK tours of the show and the hope that the show will eventually spread further across the globe and McGhie did confirm that a film adaptation is heavily being discussed and that directors and producers that are eyeing the film up have been in to see the show in the past few weeks. When asked if a sequel will ever materialise? The thought of a Christopher-in-college story was soon laughed off and the evening came to a close.
If you haven’t caught The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time at the Gielgud yet then you are seriously missing out on one of the most original, stunning and groundbreaking plays of this generation; it’s a visual masterpiece that balance’s one’s sense of intrigue and empathy with perfection. It’s a play that other plays are shaped up to in comparison because it really is still one of the hottest tickets in town – I urge you to see this show.