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A Curious Experience Backstage with 'The Curious Incident'

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As I entered behind the scenes at Theatre Royal Plymouth there was a quiet hustle and bustle as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time crew prepared for another show. The backstage space seemed small, considering the amount that goes on behind the curtain, but the tour was anything but underwhelming. Stew, the Company Manager, introduced the current tour, which has been rehearsing since December. The play first premiered at the Cottesloe Theatre at the National Theatre five years ago and has since taken the world by storm, with this tour going worldwide! The Curious World of Christopher is one many people, including myself, have seen from the safety of their seat but I was lucky to be invited behind the scenes to see how it is brought to life.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time follows the story of Christopher Boone, who is infatuated with prime numbers and the colour red, who finds Wellington, his neighbour’s dog, murdered and vows to solve the case. Using his mathematical genius he takes us on a journey, but Christopher doesn’t see the world as you and I. His struggles with social situations unearth information that may change his life forever. Adapted from Mark Haddon’s book of the same name, the play calls for an attention to detail that mirrors Christopher’s personality and precise routine.

“Curious is all about detail”

Dog’s Detail
There was one word that immediately stuck with me as Stew guided us. Detail. Every small element, often unnoticeable from the huge auditorium, added to the Curious World. Looking at the props up close continued to show this attention to detail. From rucksacks for both actors playing Christopher to empty Yazoo milkshake bottles, everything was laid out in its precise place, for ease of use when the show is live to transferring the show quickly to a new venue. The model train set is complete with a full model of Big Ben’s clock face and lights in the trees, which we were informed caused many discussions when deciding the best colour. Even each piece of chalk used within the show was cut to exactly 3.5 inches, showing the extent of the detail involved. Stew eagerly pulled out the body of Wellington the dog, which was a prop we were all eager to see until we found out Wellington was once a real dog before his starring role! Fortunately we were informed that he was kindly donated for the play. Each minute detail brought the Curious World to life, helping the actors sustain the challenging character’s night after night and creating a spectacular visual experience for the audience.
As I stepped onto the stage I couldn’t help but notice even more detail. The set is a grid that runs from -7 to 7 and is littered with 892 LEDs that allowed the stage to become anything it needed to be. As well as signifying places the stage gives access into Christopher’s unique mind, narrating his story as we follow his detective journey. As I was invited onto the stage I could see how magnificent the grid could become. The precise detail even continues into the sound, where only the prime number within each note was used whilst composing the soundtrack! The Curious Incident team clearly dedicated themselves to bringing Christopher’s world to life.

A Look into Curious Christopher
As I stepped offstage I looked around me, taking in all the complex technology that makes The Curious Incident possible. Stage managers and assistants worked around us to set props and ensure that everything was ready for the upcoming show. It was evident that the detail onstage leaked offstage, permeating every inch of the building. Every prop had its meaning onstage and its place offstage. Every piece of equipment had a back-up, just in case anything went wrong. Ironically, the precision I witnessed behind the scenes mirrored Christopher’s particular, organised life onstage. The short time I got to spend backstage on the set of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time showed the dedication of the 15 cast and 16 crew that bring this heart warming story to life in cities across the globe, sharing Christopher’s uniqueness through the medium of theatre.

Thank you to Theatre Royal Plymouth and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for allowing me to experience and share Christopher’s Curious World.

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