The Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) is no stranger to bringing in some of the absolute best works from all around the world, ranging from superstars such as Ian McKellan in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s King Lear, to Peter Brook’s stunning The Suit. This year, together with the Esplanade, they’re bringing in one of the most critically and commercially acclaimed works of modern theatre – National Theatre’s The Curious Adaptation of the Dog In The Night Time.
Having won five Tony Awards and seven Olivier Awards when it premiered on Broadway and West End respectively, this will also mark the first time a National Theatre production will be presented in Singapore. Coinciding perfectly with SRT’s 25th anniversary, we spoke to SRT Managing Director Charlotte Nors about the decision to bring in Curious Incident and the lessons one can learn from collaborations. Read the interview in full below:
Bakchormeeboy: Considering that Curious Incident is a play that turns out to be far deeper than a standard mystery play, what were your initial assumptions going into the theatre, and what were your first thoughts upon leaving it?
Charlotte: I read the book by Marc Haddon decades ago and still remembered how remarkable it was when I had the privilege to see the play in London last year. I was blown away by the story and how it was poetically told through the eyes of Christopher. I was blown away by how the National Theatre creative team respectfully took us on his journey. I loved the play as much as I did the book. I think it is important to say, that the play doesn’t seek to label Christopher.
Christopher has an extraordinary brain, he is exceptional at maths, while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He is not referred to as a boy with autism or Asperger syndrome and often Mark Haddon’s description of his story is used: “It’s a story about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way. It’s as much a novel about us as it is about Christopher.”
Bakchormeeboy: Curious Incident is a quintessentially English play, set in the UK. Why would it connect with the Singaporean theatregoer?
Charlotte: The setting is so not important. This is really a story we can all relate to, and also about how a person with autism sees the world.
Bakchormeeboy: This certainly isn’t the first time SRT has collaborated with the Esplanade, having worked together on shows such as The Bridge Project and Titans of Theatre. Even though SRT has its own venue, what lessons would you say that venues and theatre companies can learn from your collaborations?
Charlotte: Our 400-seat theatre is perfect for our smaller productions and our plays for young audiences. But when we bring in productions like Curious Incident with 40 people on tour or produce a large-scale musical, you simply need a different infrastructure – and more seats. I think, we will see a lot more creative partnership models in the coming years. The market in Singapore is saturated so we do need to work more together as an industry, share risks and share competencies. Our partnership with Esplanade has been very successful I dare say for both parties.
Bakchormeeboy: In the grand scheme of the local arts scene, how would you say acclaimed international works like Curious Incident contribute to our growth as an arts hub, and what precedents does this set for the future?
Charlotte: SRT has always sought to work with the best people on and off stage. Working with creative partners from both Singapore and abroad has allowed us to bring new perspectives to the scene, to create new relationships not just for SRT but many of our theatre colleagues – and most importantly allowed our audience to see block-busters like Curious Incident here without having to fly off to London or New York.
In a healthy ecosystem, we believe having a diverse range of productions that attracts different audiences is important. This year is our 25th anniversary, and the season is a great example of how we structure a season with something for everybody. We present National Theatre (it’s the first time ever that NT is in Singapore) with Esplanade, followed by Shakespeare in the Park, which is predominantly produced, acted and created by a local team, and we end the year with a new work at KC Arts Centre. Our youth and children’s programmes also reach yet again an entirely different family segment.
Bakchormeeboy: Has there been any other international work you’ve seen in the last few years that SRT would love to bring in in the coming seasons?
Charlotte: YES! But you have to watch this space to know which …
The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-Time plays at the Esplanade Theatre from 29th March to 8th April 2018. Tickets available from SISTIC