5 reasons why a Curious Incident has helped save Theatre
It’s not often that a West End show appears to have been produced for those in the cheap seats, but as the lights died at the start of Act 1, we realised that for £12 we’d bagged the best seats in the house – the front row of the Gods. The place where I’ve always thought I belong.
This is THE play of the moment, and whilst everyone, but everyone, had been raving about it, I was still dubious as I’ve never really liked a play – I always see them as glorified school plays: the actors ‘act’, the extras look visibly frustrated that they’re so near yet so far from being the real deal, and self-indulgence is often the name of the game, especially when the cast fail in their act to be coy during the curtain call.
But the curious incident turned everything on its head. At the ripe old age of 36, I can finally say that for the first time I’ve just enjoyed every single element of a play. Here’s why:
1. It’s all about Luke
Luke Treadaway barely leaves the stage. From the moment the house lights die at the start of the play to the stage lights dying at the end, Luke’s there, playing the lead part of Christopher. At no point did I think “Luke’s a great actor” – I was constantly thinking, “Christopher’s an interesting chap that I’d like to understand better”. This is the greatest compliment I could pay, as I’ve never been caught up in a character before.
2. …but he couldn’t have done it without Marianne
I know Directors get lauded a lot but I’ve never really understood what EXACTLY they do. I think I now know. Marianne Eliot has created a spectacle. She’s taken a good script, overseen a creative team that have conjured up high visual impact and then taken the cast by the hand and helped them bring theoretical characters to life. If I’m wrong, and this isn’t the role of the director, then it appears someone else should have won this Olivier.
3. …nor Paule
When I was at secondary school, I always got sent to a little rickety chair at the back of the ‘theatre’ with a black bedsheet (sort of) hiding me from the audience. A 1980’s desklamp shone on a big board of buttons that looked impressive, but I was the only one that knew that all the stage lights were wired up to just one dimmer button. “What a rubbish job this lighting malarkey is”, I thought. Now I’ve seen Curious Incident, I wish I’d stuck with it, as it appears you can use lighting to create a jawdropping effect. I doubt it’s common that a group of 7 chums in the pub talk about how stunning Paule Constable’s lighting was in a play?
4. …nor Ian and Adrian
Christoper is a complicated character, and to portray this depth of character, Mariane and Luke have looked to Ian Dickinson and Adrian Sutton for a little support. To me, sound means pressing a button to hear the whirr of a helicopter when you want the audience to think you’re now in Vietnam. I’ve never experienced sound being used to portray different levels of confusion, enjoyment or frustration that are occurring in the lead’s head. Until now.
5. …nor Nicola
Controversial this, but we didn’t actually see Nicola Walker. Nicola plays Christohper’s Mum, and she’d pressumably been on the sauce the night before our show as another lady had stood into her flats for the night. By all accounts, Nicola plays a powerful and emotive part, and has undoubtedly played her part in creating the huge success that this play has become.
And a special mention to Niamh Cusack who plays Christper’s teacher, and arguably stole the second-best actor title with a haunting and inspiring narration to the space scene.
So BIG congratulations to everyone involved in Curious Incident – you probably don’t appreciate what you’ve done for theatre as a whole. Then again, you’ve probably got an inclination as every single one of you won that Olivier that you were nominated for on the day I booked tickets.