Andrew Quick on ‘Imitating the Dog’ and their new play, The Train

Andrew Quick photo by Ed Waring

Andrew Quick photo by Ed Waring - Credit: Archant

Andrew Quick is one half of the creative genius behind innovative theatre company, ‘Imitating the Dog’. Together with his colleague Pete Brooks, they have revolutionised the way we watch theatre.

In a packed auditorium at the Dukes Playhouse in Lancaster I, along with the rest of the audience, sat in curious anticipation as the lights dimmed and the actors donned the stage graced with video cameras and proceeded to set them up and begin filming. Projectors from behind where we were sat burst into life plastering the back of the stage with images of the actors as the pages of an Ernest Hemingway novel turned to begin to tell the story and we were all immersed in the world of the wonderful creation of a production by ‘Imitating the Dog,’ a ground-breaking theatre company amalgamating the love of the theatre and cinema into one breath taking creation.

“A lot of the work we have done over the last ten years has been about history or certain points in time,” Andrew explains. “We produced a play called ‘The Zero Hour’ which was written about the closing hours of the Second World War, but with a time travel twist and also a play set in the 50’s centred around a hotel as purgatory. A Farewell to Arms was a war story and a love story which was an interest to us.”

A Farewell to Arms gave the opportunity for the company to showcase their ability to not only adapt a stage version of the Hemingway novel, but to develop the theatrical process with the inclusion of technology. Andrew continues, “We have always had an interest in storytelling and narrative, so we wanted to see if we could be storytellers, but to be experimental with it. We have always held interest in cinematic stories and narrative through the way media was structuring storytelling. We also have a big interest in the cinema, so we tried to find theatrical ways to relay cinema stories as it became cheaper and more accessible to merge technology with theatre. The technology is still expensive, but relatively cheaper in comparison to how theatre was in the past and there was no way it could be done years ago. There is so much digital information moving around it would have been expensive purely down to the massive computer process power to run it, but the equipment has got a lot cheaper.”

Their next play called ‘The Train’ returns to some of Imitating the Dog’s more original work, but taking on the more modern technological processes portrayed in their more recent offerings. As Andrew explains, “It’s a psychological journey into a woman’s trauma whereby you find out what’s happened in her life by glimpsing into a series of episodes as you watch and listen you realise what’s going on.” The play will take the innovation to the next level of theatre. “The audience sit in a moving carriage in the auditorium listening on headphones and they track through and across a series of train carriages. It’s very close to the action. The story is based on a therapy session where the woman discusses a dream where she is on a train and it’s the audience who are on the train with her as they gradually find out what the dream is about and what has caused her being on this train. It’s a real train, but also a metaphorical train.”

I asked Andrew where the idea for the story and the concept came from. “The idea came from a narrative of the train element of the story from ‘The Zero Hour’ which was an idea of the world or the universe being a train which is infinitely long with multiple carriages speaking either English, French, German or Chinese and there would be carriages with deserts, grass and water. In short, a mad, surreal world trapped on a train. There were fragments of the idea from ‘The Zero Hour’ where a Chinese lecturer philosophises about the possibility on the concept, so we returned to the thread and expanded it out to come up with the basis of ‘The Train.’”

Producing a play to this level can have its challenges, not only through the technological process, but also trying to adapt the story for a foreign market. “Innovative theatre is challenging as it is never straight forward. Conventional theatre gives you your structure, acts, closures and climaxes and they all work to good reason, but the shows we perform doesn’t have any of that. We are working in a slightly different language to create rhythm and texture.”

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‘The Train’ has already been performed in Italy to great reviews, but they’re not sure how it will work in English after the text is translated. The Italian connection comes through Andrew’s working partner, Pete Brooks who has worked in the country a lot particularly with Marche Teatro where they have done a series of workshops with them and also held residency there. “They wanted a piece to complement their opera season, so we took ‘The Train’ over there as we thought that it would fit in and it went down really well, so we are keen to keep working with them.”

The performance of the show was played by Italian actors, so the challenge is now to translate the text to English for the forthcoming performances in Lancaster. It’s not the first time that ‘Imitating the Dog’ have further challenged themselves. Part of the adaptation of ‘A Farewell to Arms’ was spoken in Italian with the translation cleverly projected onto the stage behind the actors. Andrew amusingly recollects the time they took the show over to Italy. “It was a challenge purely because Italians didn’t want Italian spoken by English actors because they find English accented Italian funny. This comes from the Italian version of ‘Laurel and Hardy’ which was dubbed by Italian actors pretending to be English. So the show was spoken entirely in English with the whole show subtitled.”

With the start of a new year upon us, 2016 will still be a busy one for Andrew and Pete. “We’re going out to Singapore in April to do a children’s show based on a superhero monkey! We are also looking to do adaptation of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, so we are thinking of ideas for that and also looking for partners to work with and we’re also working on a play called ‘Nocturnes’ which is a play that is set in the 50’s with the idea being around two low order British intelligent officers, a man and a woman, having an affair playing out the dying moments of the affair in the form of a role play.”

Andrew concludes, “We still have a big interest in interwar pieces purely down to the question - are we in an interwar period? The world feels like it is on the edge of something.”

21/22/23/25 Jan 2016

Lancaster Arts at Lancaster University

Box office:

Thu 21st Jan: 5pm, 6.15pm, 7.30pm, 8.30pm & 9.45pm

Fri 22-Mon 25 Jan (not 24 Jan): 12 pm, 1.15 pm, 5 pm, 6.15 pm, 7.30 pm; 8.30 pm; 9.45 pm

Tickets: £13 (Concessions £9-£11.70

Each performance is 40mins long. Maximum of 12 people per performance.