The curious interview with the actor in the day-time

17 Jan 2015 @ 8.59 pm
| News

Grand Opera House, York

Tues, Jan 20-Sat, Jan 24 @ 7.30pm (2.30pm matinees Weds, Thurs, Sat)

£14.90 – £37.90

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Joshua Jenkins stars as Christopher in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, the National Theatre production which comes to the Grand Opera House in York.

The young actor, from Swansea, talked to YorkMix about turning such a popular book into a play, and the challenges of playing such a different teenager

Joshua Jenkins as Christopher in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. Photograph: National Theatre / Brinkhoff Mögenberg

Did you know the book before being cast in the role?

I’ve read the book a few times. I read it when I auditioned for the part and fell in love with it. It’s a great book and a great story. During rehearsals I kept going back to it, it was like my holy bible for anything that could help me with certain scenes.

The story for me is about difference, and about family, and seeing the world slightly differently. Things that we all experience every day in life.

Christopher has some ‘behavioural difficulties’. How did you approach that?

I tried to do as much research as I possibly could. We went to a school in North London and met a young guy who had Asperger’s Syndrome. But this was used to aid the work, not control it.

He certainly has traits of somebody who’s on the spectrum to some degree. He can’t understand metaphors and finds it hard to read people’s facial expressions, or get people’s intonations.

You can’t hide away from it but it’s really not a play about Asperger’s or autism in any way, shape or form. It’s about family, it’s about difference and betrayal – things that we all go through.

How do you translate a book set in a boy’s mind onto the stage?

If there’s something that can’t be said that he’s thinking or feeling it’s all done through projections and music, and the wonderful choreography and movement by Frantic Assembly. So you do very much get the idea that it’s in his mind.

As an audience you enter his mind, and you see the world how he sees it. It’s magical. It’s a play but it has the production value of a big West End show. With the lights and the projection and the sound it’s really incredible.

Are you like Christopher?

I’m certainly not a maths wizard like Christopher, and I haven’t got his wonderful mind. We’re very different, but you try and draw on what you can.

He finds it hard and reacts to things in a slightly different way to most people. I’m very different to Christopher. But I wish I was more like him – he’s great.

You’re 27 and Christopher’s 15 – is it difficult playing a teenager?

The play moves really quickly. Christopher doesn’t leave the stage, he just jumps from one scene to another. That requires a lot of energy and enthusiasm to do that.

That really helps to tap into that vulnerability and that energy we have when we’re teenagers. That helps me tap into that in many ways. I wanted to avoid playing a ‘15 year old’ – playing someone much younger. He is 15 but he has the mind of someone a lot older.

‘I wish I was more like him…’ Joshua as Christopher

Do you think all ages will enjoy the play?

It’s got something in it for everybody. It’s funny and sad and magical. It’s exciting, it’s fast paced, it’s energetic. I can’t imagine any age group disliking it.

Is it a difficult role to play night after night?

It’s challenging. It’s tiring. The physical aspect of the show as well as the emotional aspect makes it a really tiring and draining piece.

But it’s such a brilliant part that I feel incredibly lucky to be doing it. It’s any young actor’s dream – it’s a dream part.

What’s it like being a part of the National Theatre?

We rehearsed for six weeks at the National Theatre. Just to go to work on the South Bank every day, you felt very privileged and very lucky.

It’s a beautiful place to go and work. The standard of work the company produce speaks for itself. It’s exciting, cutting edge stuff. It’s great to be a part of it.

Who are your acting heroes?

I was a massive fan of Leonard Rossiter. I never saw him live on stage, but I am a massive fan of Rising Damp. I watched that programme and that made my decision of what I wanted to do. I watched his performance and I thought I’d like to be an actor as well.

Do you know York?

I’ve got a very good friend who lives in York and he got married in York two years ago. I came up for the wedding but that’s the only time I’ve been to York. I thought it was beautiful, a really lovely place, and I’m really excited to go there.

What does the future hold?

I’d love to one day work at the National, one of the theatres there. There’s lots of wonderful theatres in London like the Royal Court, the Globe and the Donmar I’d really love to work at one day.