Saturday, 21 November 2015


In the words of Big Star, "This sounds a bit like goodbye: in a way it is, I guess". There have been a few goodbyes this week: it's a long winding-down process rather than the crescendo we all somehow expect. But this is the way a tour ends: not with a bang, but a whimper.

That said, our show always did end with a bang; and this evening was more emotionally charged than most of us were prepared for. We've all said goodbye to a lot of jobs and a lot of people, but this was significantly harder than usual. (I wrote much of this before the fact; and, unsurprisingly, it's not quite as predictable as I'd anticipated. Even in its closing minutes, this job proves impossible to pigeonhole.)

All that now remains to say is thank you: to the 400,000 people who came to see any of our 342 shows in 31 towns; to the friends and families that supported us; to anyone who read this blog, and to those who helped it to be read.

Curious Incident will continue, of course: in London, in the U.S.; most likely in places not yet negotiated. But my involvement with it ceases now.

When I started this blog, I posted this picture as an indication of what lay ahead. It seemed implausibly daunting.

Now the map looks like this; and I feel both pride and exhaustion.

I've said pretty much all I have to say about this play over the last forty blog posts. "Pride and exhaustion" just about sums it up.

End of the line.

All change, please.

Thursday, 19 November 2015


Tonight's our farewell party. By the time we all limp back to the beds we call ours, we'll still have three more shows to go; but goodbyes have to be planned and organised. The last night is seldom the best time to do it.

I've watched too much television in my time. And this job has, in no way whatsoever, been like a war or an 11 year-long TV series. Regardless: actors saying goodbye to each other after a length of time always makes me think of this.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


Eleven months since we first travelled here to begin this tour, we're back at The Lowry, Salford for our final five days and eight shows. We've been off for a week, so in many ways it feels as if the tour has already finished ("Think of this week as the farewell tour", said a wise friend to me the other day). Anyway, 31 venues (I can't count this one twice), over 330 shows and a year down the line, we find ourselves back at the beginning.

"We shall not cease from exploration, 
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."

T.S. Eliot said that.

Sunday, 8 November 2015


Most music sounds better when you're moving; and, if you’re anything like me, you listen to a lot of music on tour. If there’s one band that will remind me more of this whole experience than anyone else, it’s Big Star; and particularly their final, beautifully inaccessible album Third. There’s something about its sense of fractured exhaustion, peppered with moments of euphoria, that has come to reflect much of the last year for me. (If you’re new to Big Star and want to know more, I wouldn’t start with Third: it’s difficult music to love; although, for me, that’s often the best kind. I’d listen to their other two albums, or watch the documentary Nothing Can Hurt Me on Netflix; or, if you just want one representative masterpiece, I’d go for this.)

Hearing these songs, I’m walking the streets of Glasgow, trying to find a bar; I'm leaving Wolverhampton late one Saturday night, driving home for the first time in ten weeks; I’m doing my daily commute past Leeds bus station; I’m staring out of an aeroplane window looking at the Scottish coast and the glimmering North Sea, hoping I fall asleep. More than anything, I’m trudging around grey Aberdeen in early September, 500 miles from home, trying to walk off the fried bread and black pudding I had for the breakfast that I didn't really want.

Thursday, 5 November 2015


 Photo of Katy Rudd and Joshua Jenkins by Scott Graham

This play has several directors, like a battle has several commanders. It's time, just before the end, to bring attention to our Consultant Associate Director Katy Rudd and Resident Director Kim Pearce. They're the ones who have been with us pretty much every step of the way; whipping us into shape and then keeping us on the boil, like something you cook for six weeks and then have to simmer and stir for a year.

Most actors tend to think that there's no way that any director could still be giving notes after some 300 plus shows. And many other actors might graciously take notes and then ignore them. But, when you're on a long tour, things can get stale. They can get misguided. We like to proudly proclaim that much of acting is instinct. But what if your instinct is wrong? That's what a director is for; and often they can see what's right much clearer than you can.

An example: the other week, I was noted on the fact that certain aspects of my performance were losing a degree of subtlety; through repeated execution, things were getting a bit heavy-handed and obvious. So I did as I was told and tried to rein it in a bit. The result? Immediately after the show, a total stranger came up to me (which never happens) and complimented me on the subtlety of my performance that night.

The director could see something that I couldn't. Like I said, that's what they're there for. So it seems only right to take this opportunity to thank Katy and Kim for all they've done.

Oh, and because they watched the show tonight; Katy for the last time. And they both asked could they be in the blog, please.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


When we play in a town for only a week, we don't perform on Mondays. This week, we did. For the only time on the tour, we added a ninth show. Tickets sold out in six weeks.

We're in our penultimate venue, Milton Keynes Theatre. For the first few months of the tour, this was set to be our 31st and final town; until we were asked to go back to the Lowry, Salford for one extra week. This means that, from November 17th to the 21st, we will return to the place to finish where we started.

Tomorrow - well, today: this, as the title suggests, does tend to be a blog written in the night-time - is November 3rd 2015: one year to the day since we all met for the first time and rehearsals began.

A whole year. I'm tired just thinking about it.

Thursday, 29 October 2015


I was asked by William Rycroft at Vintage to answer a series of questions about Curious Incident, and how the book differs from the play. I think it was Peter Ustinov who said that only when you're interviewed do you discover how you feel about things. Anyway, here's what I said:

Throughout the book Christopher Boone has rituals like spotting coloured cars; do you or any of the other actors have any rituals before you go on stage?
Rituals before going on stage, and preparation in general, are very personal things: they're often unique to each actor and it's quite important to let people get on with theirs, whatever they may be. I've personally never been the kind of actor who needs to stare at the wall to get into character or whatever. I went to LAMDA: we were implicitly taught not to take ourselves too seriously, I think. Although, to be fair, that does depend very much on the material. If you're doing something naturalistic, it's often quite helpful to have some time to yourself before you go on. But, for me, this play is so much about quick transitions. You're this, then you're that. Scenes end and begin like the snap of fingers. So, with this more than any show I've ever been involved in, I'm talking all sorts of nonsense right until the millisecond my foot hits the stage. To be honest, I should probably be a bit more sensitive to others about it. Because, for those who are getting into character, it's probably quite annoying.

Has being in the play made you approach the book in a different way?

Being in the play hasn't really made me approach the book differently, to be honest. I must be the only person in the western hemisphere who, until a year ago, hadn't actually read Mark Haddon's book. So my ingestion of the book and the play occurred very much in tandem. They complement each other brilliantly - Simon Stephens is incredibly faithful to Mark's material: much of the dialogue is repeated verbatim - and, to be honest, it's got to the point now where I can't really remember what's in the play and what's in the book. Mark Haddon said to me a while back that it's the same for him, funnily enough.

Do you have a favourite character in the book and why?


I don't really have a favourite character in the book; most actors would say the character they're playing, but for me Roger Shears is such a gigantic loser. The relationship between Christopher and his mother is something that I find very moving, though. There's a beautiful dimension to Mark Haddon's Judy Boone which, because it's written, can only be perceived from reading. When you look at her letters to her son, there are very slight and subtle spelling and grammar mistakes. You wouldn't know that from our production because these are simply read by Gina Isaac, who plays Judy. But what comes across from that character in the book is that she might be dyslexic and have slight learning difficulties herself. I think that's a beautifully understated bit of character: that she, like her estranged son, doesn't easily fit with societal norms, standards and conventions. Also, it makes her very raw and human. There's something more pure about her emotions in the way that they're expressed in these very long, ungrammatical sentences. And, in my head, it binds those two characters together in a way that is unique to the book. That said, I think somehow Gina manages to put that across: in the touchingly clumsy yet heartfelt way she reaches out to Christopher in our production.  These characters – particularly the parents – are such beautifully flawed human beings that it just makes them more and more real to me.

Are there any moments in the book that didn’t make it into the play but that you wish had?


Something which fans occasionally feel compelled to point out is that there's much more Sherlock Holmes in the book than there is in the play. There's a whole chapter devoted to The Hound of the Baskervilles, for example. I was fully expecting Mark Haddon, when we met him, to be an enormous Christopher Boone-esque Conan Doyle fan that took Holmes very much as his inspiration for elements of the story – including its title – but it's funny how things like Holmes and Watson stopping for tea in Swindon in that story are just lovely little moments of serendipity; even though they seem somehow predestined.

Which aspects of the book do you think were most important in the staging of the play?


The most important aspect of the book, and the reason that it was universally agreed that it could never be successfully translated onto the stage, is that it gets inside its protagonist's head, in a way that reminds me of Faulkner, Conrad or Salinger. Somehow, through methods best known to themselves, Simon Stephens managed to do this in alliance with director Marianne Elliott and designer Bunny Christie. For my money, this achievement cannot be overstated – it's the reason that people respond in the way that they do to our play. It's properly stylised, interactive and immersive theatre that grabs anyone who's ever grappled with how to fit into their environment, how to grow up or how to parent a child. We can get hung up on the whole portrayal of autism: this play is about all of us.

Approaching the end of this phenomenal tour, what part of the story will you take away with you?


As this enormous tour winds down into its final weeks, I'm beginning to realise that it'll be a unique job in my career: probably the one that I'm most proud of above all others, although I'll need the dust to settle a bit for the objectivity of that to become fully clear. I'll remember that, in Liverpool over five days in July, we played to as many people as the West End cast plays to in a month. I'll remember Sarah, the teenager who wrote to Joshua Jenkins to say that his performance meant so much to her that she was coming again, with her parents, so that her friends and family might understand her more. And I'll remember Josh's definitive, towering performance as Christopher. As far as I'm concerned, there aren't enough good things that can be said about him as an actor. I know that many people have played and will play this part, but I simply cannot imagine that there's anyone else to touch him.