Joseph Conrad’s ‘impossible story’ Heart of Darkness boldly retold by imitating the dog

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, is set to bring its unique theatrical vision to the stage this autumn with the premiere of Joseph Conrad’s extraordinary, influential and timely novel, Heart of Darkness.

This bold retelling of Conrad’s classic novel will be filled with visually rich, multi-layered work that fuses live performance and digital technology.

The production will premiere in Italy and then tour the UK.

Heart of Darkness was written more than 100 years ago, amid the optimism at the turn of a new century.

It explored the journey of Conrad’s narrator, Charles Marlow, up the Congo river into the heart of Africa and is a tale of lies, 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.

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 company’s 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 20th century genocide and the problem of globalised capitalism. He also understood that their roots were in European colonialism.

“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 us, 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 this you have to tread carefully.”


November 16 – 17, Aberystwyth Arts Centre
November 20 – 24, The Studio at the REP, Birmingham Repertory Theatre


March 5 – 6, Cast, Doncaster
March 7 – 9, Mar Tron Theatre, Glasgow
March 19 – 23, The Dukes Lancaster
March 26 – 31, Theatre by The Lake, Keswick
April 2 – 3, Northern Stage, Newcastle
April 9 – 10, York Theatre Royal
April 12 – 13, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
April 16 – 18, Lowry, Salford Quays
May 1 – 4, Liverpool Playhouse
May 8 – 11, Belgrade Theatre Coventry.

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