Spotlight on Simon Stephens, playwright of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Posted on 12 March 2020
Not even a decade ago, the West End had a huge hit on their hands: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Having premiered at the Royal National Theatre on 2 August 2012, the play quickly became a London theatre sensation, taking home 7 Olivier Awards in 2013 out of 8 nominations, including Best New Play. Adapted for the stage from the 2003 Mark Haddon novel of the same name, The Curious Incident is widely regarded as a brilliant piece of work, so much so that it's hard to believe it was playwright Simon Stephens' first-ever adaptation. Now with the recent tour announcement and a new London run at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, there's no better time than now to cast the spotlight on award-winning English playwright Simon Stephens, the mastermind behind the West End Curious phenomenon.
Simon Stephens biography
Born in Manchester on 6 February 1971, Simon Stephens had always wanted to become a songwriter since he was about nine years old. Despite his aspirations, he ended up studying History at the University of York. It was whilst attending uni when he became exposed to serious theatre for the first time and discovered the potential in the art form and the "unpredictability and volatility and language."
Upon graduation, he moved to Edinburgh for several years where he met his future wife Polly and later completed his Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). He then worked as a teacher for several years whilst performing as a member of the Scottish punk band, Country Teasers. Stephens eventually quit both ventures to pursue a career in playwriting.
When Stephens met Haddon
Stephens was a dramatist at the National Theatre Studio when Mark Haddon, future author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003), was on an eight-week attachment. It was there where they met and found out they shared a whole lot in common. Before collaborating with Mark Haddon, Stephens had several plays under his belt, including Bring Me Sunshine (1997; premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival), Bluebird (1998, Royal Court Theatre), Herons (2001, Royal Court), Port (2002, Royal Exchange), One Minute (2003, ATC), Christmas (2004, Bush Theatre), Country Music (2004, Royal Court Theatre), On the Shore of the Wide World (2005, Royal Exchange Theatre), and many more.
Stephens would read material Haddon was working on for the theatre whilst Haddon would read early drafts of Stephens' plays. One day, Haddon ringed Stephens up and asked him if he'd be interested in adapting the novel after Haddon been approached over 100 times for the stage rights and resisted selling them every time. As Haddon wanted ownership of the stage play, he approached Stephens out of trust. And having written a number of dark plays with violent and nasty themes, Stephens had always wanted to write something more appropriate for children. So he agreed. And, thus, their collaboration was born and they hit the ground running.
Stephens' approach to adapting The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Stephens admitted to taking the sizeable novel and building a skeleton chronology, which he used as the backbone for the play. He then transcribed all the direct speech from the novel, which he claimed had a "real dramatic charge to it," going on to say "[Haddon] has characters speak out loud when they want to affect change in other people." Stephens then realised that the protagonist Christopher's mind could not be cut out entirely, which is why he opted for a narrator to express the character's deepest thoughts and emotions. From the original source material that was essentially a novel-within-a-novel, Stephens created a self-aware play-within-a-play that sees Christopher even pause the action to correct who gives him the milkshake or the correct the casting of the policeman. These moments help add to the show's excitement and create a jarring representation of the spectrum.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time UK tour tickets officially now on sale!
Don't miss the highly anticipated London return of The Curious Incident, which comes to the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre on 18 November and booking until 10 January 2021. The limited run in London is preceded by a stop at The Lowry in Manchester from 18 September to 3 October 2020 and followed by a stop at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton from 19 January to 31 January 2021. Be sure to book your official tickets for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time UK tour early to secure the best seats at the most affordable prices whilst stocks last.