The National Theatre has had a bumper year in its Cottesloe venue, with both This House and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time being sold out at the back of excellent word of mouth and reviews. (I can confirm all good things you heard are true). That kind of success, especially in a small venue like the Cottesloe, is often followed by news of a transfer to a bigger venue and that seems to be the case for both of the above productions: National Theatre has officially announced This House will transfer to the 1,000-plus seater Olivier from February 2013 and now word is the Curious Incident will transfer to the Apollo at the West End from March 2013. None of these is a surprise: by the time most people hear about a good play performed at the Cottesloe, all tickets are gone. In that sense, the transfers are welcome (and in a personal note, I would definitely like to see both plays again) but there are some reservations.
One obvious problem is the staging: Cottesloe is a a flexible space with staging changing radically for each play: Curious Incident is performed in the round, This House has a set that recreates the debating chamber of the House of Commons. None of the bigger venues offer that flexibility. Designers, directors and actors need to find a way to maintain the magic. Recent examples are generally positive: Collaborators didn’t lose its impact when it did the same journey from the Cottesloe to the Olivier. And there are rumours the Apollo auditorium is changing in order to recreate the atmosphere of Shakespeare’s Globe for the upcoming performances of Richard III and Twelfth Night. Maybe the Curious Incident will be take advantage of these changes.
Another concern is potential changes in the cast: for an ensemble piece like This House, this is a minor consideration. Its current cast is fabulous, but despite the presence of big names (Philip Glenister springs to mind), no one is irreplaceable (that was proven in practice). The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a different story: the play is made for a young actor to shine, and Luke Treadaway has done nothing less than that. By the time of the transfer, he will have won a few major awards I reckon so anyone else in the lead (at least initially) will feel like a cheat. I am quite certain that won’t be the case.
Either way, it’s tremendously exciting this success is for new plays from young playwrights. Combined with the transfers of Constellations and Posh, it’s obvious the new blood (James Graham, Simon Stephens, Nick Payne, Laura Wade) is going mainstream not as the exception but as the rule. I for one find very little to complain.
P.S. There are also rumours – or rather vague plans – that Curious Incident might transfer to New York. For Christopher, the sky is the limit.