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David Breeds sits in the dar on the floor with a torch in his mouth surrounded by the cast with letters in their hands

David Breeds and Rebecca Root Interview

As we look to welcome The National Theatre’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, we speak to National Theatre debutants, David Breeds (Christopher) and Rebecca Root (Siobhan), about what it is to play their respective parts in the 10th-anniversary tour of the Olivier and Tony Award®-winning production.

Written by Kelly Scotney.

What attracted you to your role?

D: “For boys my age nothing tops it really. Nothing comes close to it. You’re on stage for two and a half hours, and you don’t leave the stage during that time. And it’s got everything. It’s got acting, it’s got movement and athleticism – you get to run around the stage and [laughs] do some proper acting, some really in-depth stuff.”

R: “It’s such a wonderful part. She’s a mentor to Christopher and she’s a nice person. [Laughs] I’ve played a few unpleasant people in my career so it was nice to play someone who is sympathetic.”

David Breeds supported by cast members 'flies' above their heads with a puppet rat

Credit Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

David Breeds supported by two company members walks across a wall

Credit Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

What challenges does your role present?

D: “Christopher says everything that he thinks and so it’s interesting playing a character who always says it as it is, rather than thinking something then saying something else. But it’s also about finding the bits where he’s trying to hide something and he’ll say something that isn’t a lie but he’s bending the truth. There’s so much more to it than ‘I’m saying what I’m feeling’. There are so many tiny, complex details in there to find. It’s been really fun playing around with that in rehearsals.”

R: “Physically it’s a hugely demanding piece… But I’m pushing myself way outside my comfort zone and in my 50s I hope I’m still growing as an actor and rising to the challenges different jobs present. Then the other challenges Siobhan brings are, of course, about playing someone who shouldn’t be too saccharine. She’s nice and she’s sympathetic but at the same time she’s not Mary Poppins. You’ve got to find the balance.”

How do you feel The Curious Incident speaks to young audiences in particular?

D: “My first introduction to this was through the book and I don’t know anyone my age who hasn’t read it. I believe it is taught in schools and it’s a lovely book for children and teenagers to read, then to be able to see it dramatised on stage in such an unexpected way really opens eyes to what theatre can be. It’s an excellent example of what ‘proper’ theatre is. It’s such an exciting piece and in terms of attracting younger audiences it uses all those bells and whistles they’re familiar with. It’s a black box play that you could do in a bare room and it would still work, but to add all these audio-visual elements makes it so theatrical and engaging.”

David Breeds smiling, wears a blue t-shirt in front of a blackboard

Credit CameronSlaterPhotography

Rebecca Root sits reading a book

Photo credit Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

As a trans woman, how important for you is representation in the industry?

R: “Very much so and playing Siobhan in The Curious Incident is something I don’t take lightly. It’s one of the lead characters in an ensemble, in a high profile show, and we’re touring. It’s important, I think, for the National Theatre to be seen to be national. When my career took an upturn five or six years ago I wrote to [Artistic Director] Rufus Norris and said ‘I’m part of this show on BBC Two called Boy Meets Girl and the international conversation is changing’. Not just nationally in the UK but globally there was a moment of illumination on my community, so I wrote to Rufus and said I’d love to have a conversation with him about how I could represent or share trans experiences on the National Theatre stages.”

How did he respond?

R: “He was quite new in the post at the time and he had made a mission statement about wanting to represent the face of the UK and I said ‘Well I am part of a very visible community in the UK and we’re becoming even more so’. He was very generous with his time, we had a lovely conversation and I felt his recognition of his duty and responsibility. Obviously things don’t happen overnight and it’s great that now the National has a trans woman in a high-profile part. The next step will be to be on one of the three stages at the South Bank complex.”

What are you most looking forward to about taking the show around the country?

D: “I get to go to places I’ve never been to before… It’s going to be so nice to see different areas of the country and also to see areas where they might not necessarily be able to come to London to see shows… It’s such a positive thing to be able to take a show like this around the UK. My only previous tour was The Girls, the Gary Barlow musical, but we only did six weeks in Leeds and then six weeks in Manchester before we came to London. So this is my first proper tour, me and my Toyota AYGO. [Laughs] I’m terrified it’s going to break down on the motorway.”

R: “I haven’t toured for 25 years so I’m looking forward to seeing a bit more of the country. I’ve worked on films and TV around the UK but I haven’t toured theatricality since I did a production of Hamlet with Stephen Dillane. I played a spear carrier. [Laughs] How things have changed.”

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Tue 12 to Sat 16 April 2022, click here to book tickets.

Rebecca Root sits next to a blackboard, head resting on one hand

Credit CameronSlaterPhotography