Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Nocturnal Dramaturgy: Andrew Quick @ Edfringe 2017

Written and directed by Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks with the company
Video design by Simon Wainwright
Lighting Design by Andrew Crofts
Cast: Morven Macbeth, Laura Atherton and Matt Prendergast

Tue 21st– Sat 26 August 2017 at 5pm 
Ticket prices£14 (Concessions £12Box office: 0131 662 6892 / 

UK Tour: 18 Sept-21 Oct

imitating the dog, one of the UK’s most original and innovative theatre companies are set to return to the Edinburgh Fringe as part of the British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2017 from 21-26 August at 5pm at ZOO (Venue 124) with the premiere of their latest ambitious and visually exciting production Nocturnes, a multi-media twist on a 50’s spy thriller set during the height of the cold war.

Two operatives holed up in a Berlin apartment in the Russian Zone await instructions.  As time passes their relationship to each other and to the orders they receive from their superiors falls apart.  

Performed on what appears to be a film soundstage, two actors voice a film they can’t see and never acknowledge. But who is in control? And as the film gathers pace, can the past be changed by present-day actions?

What was the inspiration for this performance?

We started off wanting to make something on a slightly smaller scale than our last three productions and yet we still had some unfinished business as well - in that we still wanted to pursue some of our obsessions that had been informing this past work.  

We have had these two characters called Harry and Amy knocking around since 2005 and we felt they weren’t quite used up yet and we returned to the landscape of spies and relationships that had had haunted the Zero Hour that we made in 2012. Also Pete and I have been interested in the 1950s, which is when the performance is set, for a few years now.  

For me it’s the era just before I was born and it feels both very real and unreal at the same time.  It’s also an era that really shaped Britain and it’s a time that people are harking back to now - you know, a kind of golden age before the European Union.  

And I suppose we were drawn to this, and the music of course – the birth of rock and roll, youth culture, maybe the time when people en mass really began to question the validity of the establishment.  So what we do in Nocturnes is take a film, which we have created, made in the style of a 1950s cold war spy movie and have three actors live synch the voices and sound effects – they bring the past, or at least a version of the past, back into life before us.  

In doing this, things get complicated.  Just when you think it’s the film that controls everything then the action on the stage starts to infect the film.  We were interested in the idea of film being a bit like history – you know fixed and always moving in one direction and could the trajectory of history be changed and then what effect this change might have.  It sounds complicated but really we’re telling a good story and then twisting it in what we hope will be a really imaginative and compelling way.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

I am not sure that this work directly creates a space for a public discussion of ideas – not within the actual performance space, anyhow.  Certainly we want the work to stimulate discussion – I mean why else do it?  For us I think it’s more that we create a space where what one assumes to be the usual means of communication and interpretation is undermined or put into a new perspective – and this, if successful, always creates discussion.  

That’s why our work has always involved film and the cinema – film has been the dominant story telling device of the last 100 years or so, particularly in Europe and North America.  So, we’ve always been very interested in the idea of cinematic space and what happens to this space when you bring theatre into play within it – does it distort it in particular ways and what is the meaning of this distortion?  

Theatre still feels very important to us but it is nearly always in some juxtaposition with cinema.

How did you become interested in making performance?

My parents were interested in theatre and I went to loads of stuff as a kid.  I saw Beckett’s End Game and Krapp’s Last Tape staged by San Quentin Drama Workshop in the 1970s and I saw Alan Howard’s Henry Plays with the RSC kind of around the same time and then I got the idea that I would like to make work in he theatre as well.  

It seemed a wonderful place to explore and so I got involved at school and youth theatre.  Imitating the dog was founded in the late 1990s by a group of students that I was teaching at Lancaster University.  

The company grew and I got more formally involved and then we starting working with Pete Brooks in 2005 – we were friends and I had really admired his work with Impact and Insomniac in the 80s and 90s.  Turned out it was a good match and nearly 15 years on we are still working together.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

We work as an ensemble, really.  The other major artistic collaborator that I have not mentioned so far is Simon Wainwright who does all our video and film design.  He’s a key creative collaborator and has been with the company right form the start.  

We work with a number of particular actors across our productions and they provide essential feedback and make significant contributions.  We build up each performance layer by layer after we have started with a really solid scenographic idea.  We bring all these layers into play in the rehearsal process, which can span a number of months in an on and off way.  

When we make the piece the sound and video team are in the making process with us – they make great contributions in the layering process I am trying to describe.   And then we bring all these elements together in a final rehearsal process and then we carry on working on the performance during its run – tweaking things, adding stuff, editing where we feel necessary. It never stops.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Well it’s a much smaller scale piece than the previous performance works that we have made.  And I think its sense of intimacy will make it feel very different.  But anybody who knows our work will immediately recognise it as an imitating the dog show.  Maybe the tone is little more playful in Nocturnes.  It’s a kind of chamber piece and I think in that sense it is a bit more entertaining in a conventional way. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Well, I hope they have fun with it.  It’s very playful, formally.  I mean, it is messing around with genres and the relationship between the live and the recorded and where the truth of the situation might lie.  

I hope they find the story moving, the audience have to connect to it in some way for the piece to work.  I like the story. I really like the two main characters and the sense of claustrophobia they feel when they embark on a kind of low level surveillance operation in Berlin: the ordinariness of it and how they deal with the boredom and repetition of hanging around.  Hopefully, audiences will relate to this.  

Also, I think some of the wider concerns of who is telling the truth might resonate.  It’s pretty desperate now – I mean the state of the truth and what we are being told by those that would assume to govern us.  

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I think we are still wanting to give our audience something that really works visually and also in terms of sound.  The sense of creating a world still feels very important to us – a world that reveals something unusual and unexpected.  

We’re not about shocking the audience, more about taking them on a journey with us as we deal with this material that we are so focussed on.  It sometimes feels like a bit of a ride, where you don’t always know for certain where you going and where you might end up. Hopefully something of the excitement of such a ride is in Nocturnes.  We will know pretty soon.  

Nocturnes asks important questions about truth and free will and about how we understand what’s real in this post-truth era.

Recent imitating the dog production have included the acclaimed A Farewell to Arms (2014) and The Train (2016).

The company were last at the festival with their acclaimed production The Zero Hour in 2013 as part of the British Council’s Edinburgh Showcase.

The production will tour the UK from 19 September – 21 October.

Leeds and Lancaster theatre company imitating the dog devise performances that experiment with the role of story-telling and narrative in a contemporary theatrical context. Through the innovative combination of digital media, design and physical performance, the company creates off-kilter worlds within which public and private obsessions – identity, death, love and sexuality – are explored. Made in close collaboration with associate artists their highly visual and technological productions represent a unique and sometimes disorientating experience for the spectator.

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