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It is all in the detail: A curious encounter at the Theatre Royal Plymouth

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It is all in the detail
A curious encounter at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.
Written by Matt Coot

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“My name is Christopher John Francis Boone. I know all the countries in the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,507.”

The main character of Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, has a keen interest in details. Christopher Boone wants to know the exact details of everything and, sometimes, he can confuse those around him with these facts. But, to me, this personality trait is remarkable and interesting. In fact, when the National Theatre’s Company Manager, for the national tour of the play adapted from the novel, told me about the details that had been intricately weaved into every aspect of the production, I was astonished and soon found myself finding yet another reason to love this play.

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Stew Stealey, the Company Manager, was giving an exclusive tour of the set to the Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Blogger Scheme participants when he told us something unique about the play. “Adrian Sutton, the musical director, actually ensured that every note of the music was representing a prime number. This was because Christopher loves prime numbers.”

This detail, that nobody would normally notice unless they were either a music expert or had been told, is just one of many details that make this play special. When Stew continued to inform us that the whole set was built using prime numbers, I was astounded. The steel in the walls and floors, the pixels LED lighting dots, the pieces of chalks used during each show, and the number of different elements that the show’s sound cues are made up of – all of these are representative of prime numbers! The importance of this one aspect of Christopher’s characterisation has influenced the entire design process of every aspect of the play. It is incredible.

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“What’s your favourite example of the detail that is put into the production?” I asked Stew, to which he smiled and showed us the many houses and trees that make up the model railway Christopher builds during the first act. He showed us the intricate detailing that the art department had included with these props. “The audience can’t see all of this, but we know it is there” Stew said as he showed us the clock face on the model of the Big Ben tower, “All this starts off in boxes. There are 200 separate components at the start, but Christopher builds the the track up to the climatic point just before the interval when it all works. It is a big moment. I find that a very special part of the play where, despite knowing it will happen, it is heartwarming when it does.”

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Detail is important to the world of Curious Incident. This is Christopher’s world. He loves prime numbers, so the play is made from prime numbers. He loves the colour red, and so his costume for the play features a red coat and he also has a red sleeping bag. It is these details, right down to real money being in the father’s wallet when he offers to pay the headteacher for Christopher’s exam (two £20 notes, and one £10 note), that make this play special. It was obvious when talking to Stew Stealey that he, along with the rest of the crew and the cast, are proud of the show. He said, with a smile on his face as he looked around at the set, “We know we are doing the best show we possibly can, because of the work that goes into it.”

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is running at the Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 1st July. It will then move to Birmingham and continue on its tour until 16th September. Two days later, the tour continues in Amsterdam to begin its world tour.

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