Heart of Darkness

Birmingham Rep Studio


Imitating the Dog are hailed as ‘one of the UKs most interesting companies, with a hands-on approach to design and technology’.

Their previous productions exude creativity combined with an educational purpose. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is classed as an epic tale. Some have labelled the 1899 novel as a literary classic. Imitating the Dog’s interpretation of Heart of Darkness is a unique adaptation, yet it is not a retelling of the novel.

Co-writers Andrew Quick (who is also director) and Pete Brooks have used Conrad’s tale as a vehicle to analyse the ways in which we think today within a British society, generations after direct colonisation in which the novel is set. Imitating the Dog hold a distinct voice about the world around us, bringing past and present together in an explosive and tantalising way.

The company go beyond the expectation of merely producing an adaptation of a story already told. They use Conrad’s controversial tale as a vessel into the world in which we see ourselves today. They are a company with a unique presence and this production is truly one of a kind.

The fascinating play of material and media is perhaps the most striking aspect to see. It dispels all separatism between the screen and stage making for an extraordinary experience. Their context is set as if the stage itself is a film set.

The actors are constantly in front of cameras, which are operated by the company with each scene. The audience have a magnified view of what the camera sees by looking at three screens which project the live recording above. The screens also have cinematic effects, so this means that with the screens above, we view a cinematic experience in real time and on stage, we see the actors at work. It is a great allusion to all other cinematic productions of Conrad’s novel.

The production includes five incredibly strong actors. They present a stylistic and scenes are shown where we almost see them in rehearsal, talking about their own interpretations and first thoughts after reading the novel and making suggestions about how the story could be fit for stage.


They also play the characters within Conrad’s tale, with Keicha Greenidge as Marlowe. The full cast includes Laura Atherton, Margan Bailey, Morven Macbeth and Matt Prendergast. All execute Conrad’s story, and their own interpretation incredibly well.

The company certainly celebrate the text as a commendable piece of classical literature, however, what is most important is that they are also unafraid to tell the audience of the novel’s flaws. The adaptation is not a stand-alone retelling and this is perhaps the reason why their Heart of Darkness works so well on today’s stage.

The script is such that they fall in and out of the original story line, giving plot and character analysis along the way. They use material from past interpretations, especially from previous film productions, as a springboard to create new ways of thinking about the story itself and to start the discussion about the context of which the novel was written.

The company do not care for typical theatrical values. They make an explosive mark that shows multi-layered talents. There is no need to know about or even understand the original piece prior to seeing this performance, as the company take care to allow us to see the plot, and at the same time, they give us something extra in return. Imitating the Dog are bastions of creativity. They prove that with a bold interpretation and they unashamedly give us the reasons why their creative choices are made. It is an overall brave and extraordinary production. 24-11-18

Elizabeth Halpin


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