Given the size of Heart of Darkness’ ambition, the production team at ‘Imitating the dog’ clearly like a challenge. Not only an attempt at updating possibly the greatest novel to film adaptation, Heart seeks to re contextualise Conrad’s classic, whilst simultaneously using time shifts and a parallel story to explore the novel from a number of new perspectives.
Blurring the lines between front and back of house, Imitating’s version of Heart focuses on two stories; the recreation of Conrad’s novel, and an imaginary production meeting that sits alongside the recreation and questions the acceptability of the story in today’s culture. Interacting and informing each other, the dual stories work as a method of contextualising each other, with altering geographies and genders occuring in the recreation explained through conversations in the production meeting. Brave and interesting, the re-contextualisations act as vehicle to update Conrad’s story, subsequently pushing the main themes about the horrors of war, and society’s lust for greed, into clearer focus. Similar brave decisions are made in the more modern setting for the piece, which manage to maintain Conrad’s near perfect encapsulation of a moment in time; though there are questions about the need for the second, explanatory, story, as well as the productions finale which recreates Apocalypse Now almost word for word. If a core objective of the production is to ask the audience to see Heart through a new lense, then reverting to its most popular lense feels like a pull-back from a greater risk and a missed opportunity.
Delivered through sensitive acting and live interactive multi-media production, Heart’s narrative is brought to life through a live performance that is intense and engaging; though at times multiple moving parts are difficult to simultaneously process.
A hugely bold attempt at re-purposing a classic, Heart mostly achieves it’s vision and self-challenges.