We speak to Simon Stephens, the award-winning playwright who adapted Mark Haddon’s hugely successful novel, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, for the stage.
How did you go about adapting Mark Haddon’s novel, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, which Mark himself had described as unstageable.
The innate dramatic charge of his dialogue means his work is eminently stageable. I spent some time trying to separate the narrative from the prose of the book. I worked through it listing all the events that happened in the story. I then spent some time transcribing the direct speech. I had the hunch that in the direct speech there would be clues as to the books dramatic heart. It was through this that I came up with the idea of using Siobhan as a narrator. She is one of only three people who read Christopher’s book in the novel and her view point is so much like the novel’s readers. I also think that the idea of a favourite teacher is one many people can relate to. She’s a peripheral character in the novel but central to the play.
What do you think the story is about and why does it appeal to readers and theatre-goers?
I think it’s a story about family. I think it’s about what it’s like to raise a child or be raised; to parent or have parents. I think it’s a celebration of the capacity for bravery in the most unlikely of environments. Stories of bravery resonate. Stories of families resonate.
Can you tell us something about the staging and why you think Marianne Elliott was the right choice to direct the play.
Marianne has an innate sense of democracy. She combines a fearlessly and ferociously theatrical imagination with a real concern for her audience. She and designer Bunny Christie and the rest of the artistic team committed completely to trying to get into Christopher’s head and dramatise his world from within. That’s what watching the play feels like. It feels like you’re in Christopher’s brain.
How involved were you with the creative process?
I was at a fair few rehearsals – mainly to offer occasional re-writes and a very few insights into the progression. But Marianne and her team were so robust that they didn’t need me too much. I mainly turned up late and tried to make everybody a cup of tea.
I understand you were a teacher. How did that inform your writing and how did you make the leap from teaching to become a playwright?
I think both writing and teaching operate from the same optimism. The writer and the teacher work from the assumption that they can make the world better and they can change people. I loved teaching and the kids I taught continue to live with me in my imagination and inspire my work. I never stopped writing while I was teaching and after a while Ian Rickson at the Royal Court Theatre read my plays and asked me to be his resident dramatist. On the 1 January 2000 I started as Resident Dramatist at the Royal Court. I still see some of the teachers I worked with and occasionally some of the kids I taught.
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time: Monday 6 to Saturday 11 March. Book here.