In this year’s UK and Ireland Tour of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Connor Curren booked his professional lead debut as Christopher Boone for the 10th Anniversary Tour of the play. Also this year, Connor was seen playing his first regular character in a TV series, having played Tom Chitling in the new CBBC drama Dodger, which premiered on the channel in February, before being released on BBC iPlayer and BBC One. Connor trained at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, performing in shows including Jane Wenham: The Witch of Walkern and The Lower Depths, and he graduated during the pandemic in 2021. We chatted to Connor about touring as Christopher Boone in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, playing Tom Chitling in Dodger and training at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
You have recently finished touring as Christopher Boone in the UK and Ireland Tour of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, how did the run go?
It was great! It was such an incredible experience bringing the show to so many cities, it’s such an iconic show and – apart from it being such a beautiful story – you really get to see why this show has been revived consistently for over ten years, the audience reactions. The reactions are so passionate from every place we visited, whether it was someone who had never seen the show before, someone who had, whether it was a seasoned theatregoer or someone’s first time seeing a play, it was just really special getting to bring it to so many people.
What was Christopher like to play and do you remember how you felt booking the role for your professional lead debut?
He’s such a massively complex and very unique character, but the great thing was there was such intricate detail in Mark Haddon’s novel and Simon Stephen’s script that the character was laid out for you, you just digest all the facts and play it as truthfully as possible. He’s a character I think that is always trying to avoid chaos, and as a result is very organised, direct, fast, and routined in his thoughts and actions, something which I found great to explore and also challenging as I’m probably a bit more on the messy and chaotic side myself!
How was it working with the rest of the cast and what was it like rehearsing for the show?
They were such a great ensemble and, as someone who is relatively new to the industry, really helped me feel at ease with the role. In terms of rehearsing, we had some great direction from Anna Marsland, Blythe Stewart and the rest of the creative team, including the brilliant people at Frantic Assembly, who made flying through the air and walking on walls something that I – eventually – could do easily!
What was it like being part of the 10th Anniversary Tour and how did you find the experience touring for the first time?
It was such a special milestone to be a part of and also a great environment to be in for an actor’s first tour. It was hectic but also so rewarding getting to visit a bunch of new places I had never been to, especially getting to visit Ireland was a personal highlight for me, as well as the friendships you develop being on tour with a company of people for such a long period of time.
What are some of your favourite memories from playing Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time?
Press night was definitely a massive, massively important moment for me – knowing Simon Stephens was in the audience as well as some previous Christophers, along with reviewers etc was both nerve-racking and also insurmountably thrilling. And it was such a rush doing the show as well as mingling at the post show drinks afterwards, it’s something as an actor I’m very lucky to have done and hope I’m fortunate enough to receive similar opportunities in the future.
How much did you know about Mark Haddon’s storyline before booking your role?
I was familiar with the basic plot of the book as it was such as huge hit when it came out, and I remember always seeing a copy around the house as my mum really loved the book, but I had never read it myself until I got the job.
On screen, you can be seen as regular character Tom Chitling in Dodger, was there anything that drew you to the role and how was it getting into character?
I always wanted to do something period and obviously there’s tons of fun to be had playing somewhat of a bad guy, as well as obviously working with some amazing actors like Christopher Eccleston and David Threlfall too.
Can you tell us about Tom and what was he like to play?
He was so fun to play, there’s loads of fun getting to swagger about and do and say things you could never get away with in real life. But also, I think throughout filming there was great discovery in finding the character’s vulnerability and uncovering that beneath the mean exterior, there is just a scared, hungry child just like the rest of them.
What was it like on set of the show and how was it having Tom as your first regular character in a TV series?
Seeing the set for the first time was such a great experience, it felt like you were really transported back to 1800s and it really helped just colour in everything you were doing performance-wise as well. As for what it felt like to have Tom as my first regular character, it’s been such a great experience! The creative team as well as my fellow actors helped me really feel at home on set, it’s daunting going from drama school to then being a regular on a BBC series with relatively little camera training, but I was quickly put at ease by Rhys (Thomas) and Lucy (Montgomery) and the rest of the team so quickly and was really encouraged to be creative and bold. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience to break me in to the industry.
What did you enjoy most about working on the show and how was it seeing the completed series when it was released?
Getting to meet a lot of new people, loads of veteran actors and chatting away with them on set, seeing new locations, having absolutely filthy teeth! Too many things to pick, to be honest. And it was so surreal seeing it on screen and seeing how it all pieces together, when you film it’s all out of sequence so seeing the brilliant editing that goes on and just witnessing it all unfold, as well as watching all the people you’ve made close friends with absolutely kill it was a truly brilliant experience.
Do you have any stand-out highlights from filming Dodger?
There’s a lot, I really enjoyed filming the Carnival episode most of all, I think – it was so fun and adventurous, and obviously getting beaten up by Polly was a personal highlight too!
We understand you’ve previously filmed for Two Doors Down, can you tell us about this?
Yes, it was my first ever gig really. Again, it was great working with some really talented actors, although it was before I trained so I think I may have been a bit out of my depth at the time! It was altogether a really fun experience, we rehearsed in London and it was one of the first times I’d ever been down there. It felt so surreal and helped sort of shape the notion that acting was something I wanted to do with my life.
You graduated from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire last year, what encouraged you to attend and how was your time training?
Well, I thought I needed some training as I felt just trying to jump into the profession without really knowing what I was doing would be a massive risk to my future. Whereas in drama school, you’re allowed to fail, you’re allowed to be bad, to discover what you need to improve and what techniques and tools work for you. It was definitely so valuable, I wouldn’t be able to walk onto a set or stage with half the confidence and knowledge I have now if I hadn’t trained.
Can you tell us about some of the productions you performed in whilst training, which have included Lady Windemere’s Fan, Jane Wenham: The Witch of Walkern and The Lower Depths?
I was lucky in school to explore roles that I would never in a million years be cast in necessarily, at least not for a while. For example, playing a 60-something-year-old bishop in Jane Wenham, and playing a 50-something-year-old policeman in The Lower Depths. These performances, especially the latter two which were in my second year, are more for the actors than for an audience, exploring a facet or facets of your acting that you need to improve on throughout your training.
Where does your love of acting come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
I read something somewhere that said actors simultaneously run away from the spotlight and also want to be in it. And I think that encapsulates a lot of it for me, it’s that desire to be vulnerable and true and expressive, but doing it through the eyes of another person, and putting yourself in that person’s shoes, and just being a kid again really, playing pretend, and getting out of your own head, which is something I discovered in my late teens mainly in youth theatre, and that’s when I knew I wanted to do this with my life.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career and what are you hoping 2022 brings you?
To be honest, I love my bed. If sleeping was an Olympic sport, I’d win Gold. Apart from that, I love playing guitar, seeing mates, and binge-watching a good show.
I’m hoping I keep being lucky, to be honest! I want to do loads more work and continue improving as an actor, if I can hopefully keep getting those opportunities, that’s all I can ask for.
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