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Media Press Release: Heart of Darkness UK Stage Premiere

29th August 2018 by Morven Macbeth

Co-produced by imitating the dog with Marche Teatro (Italy) and Cast. Supported by Lancaster Arts at Lancaster University and Theatre by the Lake.


By Joseph Conrad

Retold by imitating the dog

Adaptation and Direction by Pete Brooks and Andrew Quick  

Projection and Video Designs by Simon Wainwright

Design by Laura Hopkins

Lighting Design by Andrew Crofts

UK Tour: 16-24 November 2018 and 5 March – 11 May 2019

The story is impossible to tell, but it must be told

imitating the dog, one of the UK’s most original and innovative performance theatre companies are set to bring their unique theatrical vision to the stage this autumn when they premiere a bold retelling of Joseph Conrad’s extraordinarily influential and timely novel – Heart of Darkness.

Following on from their popular and critically acclaimed adaptation in 2014 of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, imitating the dog will stage an exploration of Conrad’s classic novel filled with visually rich, multi-layered work that fuses live performance and digital technology.

The production will premiere in Italy at Marche Teatro’s Teatro Sperimentale in Ancona and then tour to Aberystwyth Arts Centre (16-17 November) and Birmingham Repertory Theatre (20-24 November). The UK tour will continue in 2019 from 5 Mar to 11 May.

Written more than 100 years ago, amid the optimism at the turn of a new century, Heart of Darkness, which explored the journey of Conrad’s narrator Charles Marlow travelling up the Congo river into the Congo Free State in the heart of Africa, is a tale of lies and brutal greed and of the dark heart which beats within us all. Now retold as a journey of a black woman through war torn Europe, the play explores a forsaken landscape lost to the destructive lust for power and emerges as a tale absolutely for our time.

Negotiating race, gender and the themes of exploitation, violence and nationalism, imitating the dog’s Heart of Darkness is a searing parable for our times, created at a moment when versions of Britain’s colonial past are being held up as a golden era and when our relationship with Europe is being severely tested.

Heart of Darkness is retold and directed by imitating the dog founder members Pete Brooks and Andrew Quick (A Farewell to Arms and Kellerman, imitating the dog and The Carrier Frequency, Impact Theatre Co-operative). The production’s projection and video are designed by fellow original founder member Simon Wainwright (The Kid Stays in the Picture, Royal Court).

The production’s other creative team will include regular collaborators, Designer Laura Hopkins (Black Watch and Peter Pan, National Theatre of Scotland, The Divide, Edinburgh International Festival and The Old Vic), Lighting Designer Andrew Crofts (Trash Cuisine, Belarus Free Theatre and The Young Vic) and Composer Jeremy Peyton-Jones who previously worked with the company on A Farewell to Arms. Casting will be announced in September.

imitating the dog Co-Artistic Director Pete Brooks said: 

“As a result of recent political events we felt that the UK had become gripped with a nostalgia for our colonial past without really acknowledging what that past was. It felt like most people believe the British Empire was a reciprocal arrangement; we got rich, but they got to speak the best language in the world and have a functioning civil service. In Conrad’s novel he anticipated the horrors of twentieth century genocide and the problem of globalised capitalism. He also understood that their roots were in European colonialism. This was our starting point.

Conrad’s novel deserves to be treated seriously, and his unconscious racism does not invalidate his work, although some people might say it diminishes it. For imitating the dog, it was important that we retold Conrad’s story for audiences today, and from a new perspective. Our production is now the story of the journey of a black woman into the darkness of a war-torn Europe.

Heart of Darkness is simply too important a work to be avoided because it’s a political minefield and when you take on a text as tricky as Conrad’s novel you have to tread carefully.”

imitating the dog have been making ground-breaking work for theatres and other spaces for 20 years. Their work, which fuses live performance with digital technology, has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people in venues, outdoor festivals and events across the world.

As a company, they are most interested in telling stories and creating beautiful, memorable images for audiences. The company strive to tell stories which are important, and which contain important ideas.

Recent acclaimed productions have included The Zero HourSix Degrees below the Horizon, Hotel Methuselah and A Farewell to Arms. The company created the sited work Arrivals and Departures for the launch of Hull City of Culture 2017. Earlier this year the company became an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.

The production will tour next year to Doncaster, Glasgow, Lancaster, Keswick, Newcastle, York, Ipswich, Salford, Liverpool, and Coventry.

Heart of Darkness is co-produced with Marche Teatro (Italy) and Cast, Doncaster. It is supported by Arts Council England, Lancaster Arts at Lancaster University and Theatre by the Lake.



Friday 16-Saturday 17 November at 7.30pm – Aberystwyth Arts Centre Box office: 01970 623232

Tuesday 20- Saturday 24 November at 7.45pm (Mat: 20 & 24 November at 2.45pm) –The STUDIO at the REP, Birmingham Repertory Theatre Box Office 0121 236 4455

All 2019 venues go on sale later this year

5-6 Mar Cast, Doncaster -Box Office 01302 303 959

7-9 Mar Tron Theatre, Glasgow – Box Office 0141 5524267

19-23 Mar The Dukes Lancaster -Box Office 01524 598500

26 – 31 Mar Theatre by The Lake, Keswick – Box Office 01768 774411

2 – 3 April Northern Stage, Newcastle  Box Office:0191 230 5151

9-10 April York Theatre Royal – Box Office: 01904 623568

12-13 April New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich – Box Office: 01473 295900

16-18 April Lowry, Salford QuaysBox Office 0843 2086000

1-4 May Liverpool Playhouse – Box Office: Tel 0151 709 4776

8-11 May Belgrade Theatre Coventry – Box Office 024 7655 3055


Marche Teatro, Italy

Marche Teatro is the regional theatre of the Marche region of Italy. Under the direction of Velia Papa, the organisation operates several theatres including Teatro delle Muse and Teatro Sperimentale in Ancona. Marche Teatro produces new work, from theatre and opera to dance, and supports artists. It hosts the annual Inteatro International Festival, dedicated to innovative, contemporary live arts.

Marche Teatro is supported by the Italian Ministry of Culture, Marche Region and the Municipality of Ancona.

Cast, Doncaster

Cast opened its doors in 2013 and has since played host to internationally acclaimed touring companies, co-produced work and the very best in local talent. The state-of-the-art Main Space 620-seat theatre presents a thriving programme of entertainment all year round including music, dance, children’s shows, comedy and theatre. As well as the main auditorium, the Second Space within the venue can accommodate audiences up to 400 and features small-scale touring works. The theatre is now enjoying its fourth year in operation and recent highlights include the free outdoor spectacular Colour of Light, which attracted an audience of over 3,500 people, the world premiere of Northern Ballet’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and a professional in-house produced pantomime, which grows in popularity year on year.

Cast is funded by Arts Council England and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council.

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