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Eliott Purcell debuted with SpeakEasy Stage in 2015, as Rhys in appropriate. He then returned earlier this year as Jason in Hand To God, a double duty performance with deranged sock puppet Tyrone that led to his first Elliot Norton Award Nomination. Now as he prepares for the role of Christopher Boone in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, we asked Eliott to open up his thought process on the character in the Tony Award-winning play.
I first encountered Christopher Boone and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time about two or three years ago when my mother recommended the book; and I immediately fell in love with the story and character. Author Mark Haddon paints a wonderfully arresting portrait of Christopher, a 15 year-old kid who sees the world in a richer and more direct way than anyone else around him.
Christopher’s mind is sharp and amasses incredible amounts of information quickly. As he says in the script, he knows “all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,057.” For Christopher, sounds are louder, colors are more saturated, and external stimuli are more intense.
His biggest challenge is people, as Christopher has trouble reading facial expressions, and struggles to understand lies or misdirection. Christopher always tells the truth; and for him, the truth is the world at face value. His innocence is remarkable.
The things about which I most identified with Christopher, however, are his dreams and aspirations. Christopher dreams of space, of infinite expanse, of complicated technology, and of rocket ships and astronauts. He is extremely gifted in mathematics (which, being from England, he calls ‘maths’) and also excels in physics. (AP Calculus was one of my favorite classes back in school, and Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality, a theory book on parallel universes, is one of my favorites to read.)
Like Christopher, I have dreams too, which change and multiply all the time. When I was a kid, for example, I wanted to be an archaeologist, a fighter pilot, an explorer, and a pirate; and I still want to be all those things. But we each have only one life and so much time. And there are so many barriers to achieving those dreams; some shared among all, and some unique to each individual. I know and accept that there are many things I dreamed about as a kid that I will never ever do. But I’m actually quite lucky, because as an actor, in a way, I will get to explore many of my dreams.
And I want Christopher to realize his dreams. As I’ve started to work on the script in preparing for this show, my heart wrenches and pounds and my soul rattles in my bones. My spirit is desperate for Christopher to get what he wants. What he deserves. He is just a kid who wants to be the best he can be. And like Christopher, I am also just a kid who just wants to be the best that he can be.
In my opinion, those are the three things that make a great play and that make The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time great: people who need something so much it makes you shake, seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and a different way to look at the world.