Youthful talent at Leeds Grand Theatre

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With The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time currently at Leeds Grand Theatre, Nick Ahad speaks to the production’s young director.

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Any young director would love to have the opportunity to work on a major show, but the truth is you have to work your way up and pay your dues.

Katy Rudd has definitely paid her dues, but having the opportunity to direct the national tour of the theatrical mega-hit The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time so early in her career is seriously impressive.

The Leeds University graduate is the woman in charge of the tour of the National Theatre’s major hit and is delighted it’s playing this week at the city where she studied.

“It’s six years since I graduated and left Leeds, but the city had a massive impact on me. I did my first year at Bretton Hall, but then studied and live in Leeds itself. It’s such a vibrant city and culturally it is second to none in terms of the theatre offer.”

It sometimes takes a stranger from out of town to remind you of what you have in your own city and Rudd’s take on Leeds is an interesting one.

“With events like Light Night and the work that happens at the Playhouse, it is for me one of the best places in the UK to be a young theatre artist. The great thing about the city is that it encourages young artists to take risks.”

Having learned her craft in Leeds with plays like Hippolytus, which she directed at The Stage at Leeds, she travelled to London to hone her craft. As with any young director, she started out as an assistant, working on shows at London’s Harold Pinter theatre, the Old Vic and significantly at the National Theatre.

It was there that she worked 
with Marianne Elliott, one of the UK’s most highly regarded directors who helmed the original production.

Adapted from Mark Haddon’s best-selling book by Simon Stephens, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time the stage play won a seriously impressive seven Olivier awards in 2013, including Best New Play and Best Director.

When the show transferred to New York it went on to win Tony Awards including Best New Play and Best Scenic Design of a Play. While the production touring the UK is in Leeds this week, there are also productions running on Broadway and at the Gielgud Theatre in London.

Rudd says: “It’s absolutely Marianne Elliott’s production, but she was incredibly generous in sharing her process and allowing me to have input.

“On tour, it’s absolutely the production that audiences saw at the National and will be seeing in the West End and on Broadway, so it’s incredibly flattering to be trusted with bringing it to audiences around the UK.”

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the production is the fact that it has won such massively high praise, despite the fact that really it should never have worked.

Mark Haddon’s novel tells the story of a 15-year-old boy who is autistic. While exceptionally equipped in terms of maths and logic, he has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road. The book is an internal journey as much as an external one for the teenage hero of the story.

“The question was always ‘how 
do we actually tell this story?’. The play absolutely comes from the book and that has such a strong first-person narrative. You see the story through Christopher’s eyes,” says Rudd. “The answer was to do the same thing with the play, to see the world through Christopher’s eyes.

“He lives in a literal world, he struggles to read people’s faces and to understand emotions, so the staging has to be incredibly dynamic to represent that and capture it.

“Once you realise that, that’s when you start using your imagination to tell the story.”

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Leeds Grand Theatre, until August 29, www.leedsgrandtheatre.com and 
Sheffield Lyceum, September 15-26, www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk