In Simon Stephens’ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a highly gifted teenage boy named Christopher Boone investigates the murder of his neighbor’s dog, Wellington. As his investigation unfolds, Christopher unearths family secrets that throw his world in a tailspin, making him question everything he believes, and spurring him on an adventure that will change his life forever. In FST’s production of Curious Incident, Rachel Moulton plays Judy Boone, Christopher’s mother, a loving woman who has difficulty taking care of a neuro-divergent child.
We met with Rachel to talk about the different dimensions of her character, Judy, why people are so drawn to Curious Incident, and what we can all learn from it.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays in FST’s Gompertz Theatre through March 29. For tickets and more information, click here.
Tell us about the play and your character, Judy.
Curious Incident is perhaps the most compelling, breathtaking tale of a hero’s journey that I have come across in my life. Through the eyes and mind of the play’s hero, 15 year-old Christopher Boone, we see him set out on a quest to solve the mystery behind the murder of his neighbor’s dog, Wellington. Although it is never specified in the play, we understand that Christopher, while exceptional and truly extraordinary in how he exists in the world, is also neuro-divergent.
A true testament to courage and bravery, we follow Christopher’s journey as fellow detectives, which takes him from his hometown of Swindon all the way to London. I play his mother Judy, who is said to be dead two years prior to the start of the play’s action.
The first time you come onstage during Curious Incident is during a memory in which Judy and Christopher are on a beach in Cornwall. What does this memory reveal about Judy and her relationship with her son?
You see a romanticized painting of Judy – she is young, free-spirited, kind, and has a deep love for her son. Trust is a crucial theme of this play and the first thing we see Judy ask of her son is to trust her. Through laughter and innocent teasing, she assures him that he can trust her and that everything is okay (after he panics that she will be eaten by sharks in the water).
We also see the touching of their hands, which is the way Christopher and his parents express physical affection. It is simple but deeply moving for me to watch Christopher “remember” this touch as I kneel next to him, a mere memory in his mind.
What is revealed through this memory is the way in which Christopher has remembered his mother. Having come to learn she has died, this is how he has cemented her image in his brain. I think it is absolutely exquisite how visceral it is, innocent and filled with such specific sense memory. It shows how keen and discerning Christopher’s psyche is.
What do you think this play says about families and humanity?
We as humans are so beautifully intricate and complicated. Families, and our dynamics within them, can often be messy and are most always imperfect. Curious Incident shows us how one young boy, viewed by many (daresay most) in the world around him as “special” and “different,” perseveres on a quest to solve a mystery, and persist in achieving his own autonomy. The play demonstrates to us that humans are capable of tremendous feats. Despite all odds, should’s and should not’s, black and white, and any and all preconceived notions…all of that can be woven into one’s experience and can fuel our need and desire to achieve goals, thrive in success, and live a full, messy beautiful life. Christopher’s drive and determination teaches not only the audience, but everyone around him (his mother, his father, his teacher, and neighbors), to be “truthful, gentle, and fearless.”
What is the most enjoyable and challenging part of playing Judy?
I’d have to say the most enjoyable part is my entrance! The audience learns about Judy, but waits a good half hour into the show before seeing her. I just love it!! The way she is introduced in this innocent visceral memory Christopher has of her, and the way it has been staged is so wonderful. I think it surprises people.
The most challenging part is, without question, the hairpin emotional shifts that occur during the sequence of scenes in Act Two. The focus it requires is not always easy for me to hook onto. But when you are gifted with such insanely talented scene partners it helps. Tremendously.
What’s your favorite moment in the play and why?
Ah! That’s a tough one…because I have so many!!! In all honesty, it often changes from show to show. Sometimes it’s the dream sequence when I first enter the play, sometimes it’s Judy’s letters…
My favorite moment as Rachel the actor is without a doubt the last two scenes of the play. I am onstage with my family surrounded by the family of our ensemble. We all have the shared experience of witnessing the culmination of our hero Christopher’s journey, which without fail takes my breath away each and every time.
Why do you think that people are so drawn to Curious Incident?
I think people are drawn to the unconventional method of storytelling. You have a hero’s journey to follow with a protagonist not normally portrayed onstage. He is also showing us not only what it is like to exist inside the mind of a young boy who is neuro-divergent, but someone who is experiencing emotions fully and fearlessly, revealing them with his full self.
Curious Incident is an unusual piece in the movement and way in which Christopher’s world is created with our ensemble, movement, boatloads of characters, sound, lights, costumes, and projections. The play asks you to think and feel in a different way, to boldly “color outside of the lines” for two hours.
Why should someone come see the play?
To learn and to feel fully immersed in what it is like to walk, run, and soar fearlessly in the shoes of another human being whose heart is three times as big as the Gulf of Mexico!!
Seriously though, I think because of play’s unique structure and the unconventional method storytelling, coupled with such a magnanimous, delicate performance by our entire ensemble (captained by the incomparable Alexander Stuart), audiences feel so deeply connected to Christopher. It has been such a gift to hear and witness such a powerful audience response.
You root for Christopher, you root for his mother and father, Siobhan, and the community around him. You rally behind these beautiful, messy, complicated people because a part of you feels filaments of them within you.
I have an obvious bias, but I am beaming with pride over what we as a company (cast, director, designers, stage management, and crew) have created and get to share with a dark room full of strangers eight times a week. Get thee to the theatre folks!!! This one is not to be missed.