Luke Treadaway is one of eight 2013 Olivier Award nominees from the sellout London hit The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, now at the Apollo Theatre with Broadway in its sights. The 28-year-old actor plays 15-year-old Christopher Boone in Simon Stephens’ adaptation of the best-selling novel by Mark Haddon, which probes the enquiring mind of a young boy while also functioning as a thriller, a mathematical discourse and a meditation on family. Broadway.com spoke to Treadaway not long after his play’s West End transfer about acting younger than he is and the joy of being in a huge hit.
Congratulations on the ongoing success of this play.
Thank you! I have loved doing it so much, all the way from the early workshops onward to the National, and it continues to be so exciting and interesting.
There’s already talk of moving the production to Broadway. Would you like to be part of that?
Are you kidding? I would love to, and I really do think [the play] should go. It’s such a magical piece, and I feel an incredible connection to it. At the moment, I’m feeling like I’d like as many people as possible to see what [director] Marianne [Elliott, with whom Treadaway worked in War Horse] has done with Simon’s script. I can’t even begin to express how much my career owes to her; she’s absolutely brilliant.
At what point did you realize that Curious Incident would appeal to a wide audience?
The response has been extraordinary pretty much from the beginning. When I think about it, so much [of the success] has to do with this being a play about difference, and a young person who has to deal with that aspect of himself all the time. What’s become very clear is that people of all ages can relate to Christopher. His story is about love and hope and being brave and trying to work out what the universe is about, and that seems to have broad appeal.
Much has been made of the notion that Christopher is autistic—or at least on that spectrum—even though the word itself is never used in the play.
I think it’s a good thing that we leave precise language out of our telling of it. After all, Mark [Haddon] never wrote his book about a specific condition, so it follows suit that it’s never specifically mentioned in our play.
You must be delighted to pull off the feat of playing a character almost half your age!
Well, I’m glad you think it works, and that no one was sitting there going, “Good god.” The good thing is that this sort of challenge is different on stage. I’m not sure I’d want to play a 15-year-old in a film! [Laughs.]
What about the physicality of the piece? You seem to be in constant motion for two and a half hours.
Yes, although I have a feeling if I actually clocked it, it might be disappointing: I might find out that the actual distance travelled is only like half a mile! [Laughs.] The fact is, what I’m doing in this play isn’t good exercise, it’s weird exercise, though the rehearsals did get me really fit. Since then, it’s been about learning what stresses you can put on your body so that you’re not absolutely wrecked. But it’s great to be part of a piece of “total theater,” which is rarely done; you don’t see stuff like this in a West End play very often.
It must be demanding, since you are doing six shows a week and an alternate, Johnny Gibbon, does the other two.
That’s been essential. People ask whether I’ve watched him in the role. and I haven’t so far; it feels to me as if I definitely won’t. I hear he’s fantastic, but it would just be too strange.
Is there anything in your background or training that helped you for this part?
Absolutely. When I was 17 or 18, I did a lot of contemporary dance and drama stuff with movement, and that’s been quite handy. I’ve always loved movement, and when I got this job, I wondered whether I might have forgotten all that stuff. And as it turned out, I sort of had [laughs].
You share the stage briefly near the end with a puppy that the audience instantly takes to heart. Didn’t W.C. Fields say that actors should be wary of working with children or animals?
Sure, but how could anyone not want to work with Sandy [the dog], who may now be in his final weeks [in the play]? It looks to me as if he has a pretty great lifestyle. They bring him backstage, then he comes on for his five minutes and walks off with the show. Not bad, huh?