Theatre review - The Train, The Nuffield Theatre

The Train by Imitating the Dog

The Train by Imitating the Dog - Credit: Archant

Rob Gemmell goes along to see the innovative production by Imitating the Dog

The world of Manchester based theatre company, Imitating the Dog, is not one of convention, but more invention. They take the whole idea of theatre, turn it upside down, shake it around and what we are left with is a piece of work of such exuberance and such ability that we are left to absorb in the aftermath of innovation. One of the key aspects of their work is the uncertainty of what to expect, but that is also the beauty of the productions as they are constantly trying to better themselves and we, the audience, are reaping the rewards.

‘The Train’ is set, as the title suggests, on board a train. Only, the audience are also on board a train. A small compartment to fit no more than twelve people is presented to us on arrival, along with a pair of headphones. The audience become the passengers and the carriage moves around with the action. Through the headphones we first hear the mellowing sounds of a train, so monotonous, but hypnotic at the same time. The introduction to the show is a series of narrations detailing the make-up of a train which is played intermittently throughout the scenes. The carriage where we, the passengers, are now sat begins to shake slightly and then move. There is a small window at the front and black curtains are drawn open and we are driven to the heart of the action.

Imitating the Dog don’t do anything by halves and this original piece of work is no different. They have such talent and capabilities of not only producing captivating theatre, but also the engineering and technology that goes along with it. ‘The Train’ is not only a train, but a metaphor. We meet Amy, a woman haunted by a desperate search to find her husband and her little girl. The story is depicted in a session with a psychiatrist, expertly displayed in video form on the back of the set. She talks about a recurring dream that she has in great detail as she searches for a man, a man who turns out to be her husband, a husband that left her by taking his own life. Through her grief she creates a surreal world and as the passengers on the train, we have front row seats.

The beauty of the production isn’t just in the fantastic creative technology, but also the direction, performances and also the writing. Co-Directors and co-writers, not to mention co-founders of Imitating the Dog, Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks showcase a multitude of talents on all levels from their creative eye through to meticulous direction combined with an intelligent script full of excellent dialogue. The storyline is gritty, it’s clever and it’s gripping. As the curtains close and the compartment moves around the anticipation for the continuation of the story is overwhelming, washed over with relief once the compartment stops and the story carries on.

With such novelty in the production comes the dedication of the cast, tasked to bring the story to the passengers. Laura Atherton excels in her portrayal of Amy, the main protagonist whose dream is brought to life through a series of recollective flashbacks discussed with her psychiatrist. Her grief and uncertainty of a situation as well as her abilities to adapt her performance to fit in with an original set detailed her abilities. Matt Prendergast played a series of roles portraying the many characters that Amy sees in her dream, skipping faultlessly between each one to show a versatility and skill as an actor. Morven Macbeth played the role of The Woman, a key part to the dream and with no words spoken, it was the talent of facial expressions and body movements that gave her credibility in her performance.

Although the brains behind ‘The Train’, Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks have also been blessed with a background team containing Simon Wainwright (Video Designer), Laura Hopkins (Set Design) and Jeremy Peyton-Jones along with Rory Howson who were responsible for the sound and music, effectively adding an often haunted melody to the backdrop of the story. A combination of talent which capped off this incredible production.

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There’s no knowing which direction Imitating the Dog will head in next. With every production comes something new and refreshing. It’s enticing to see the innovation of theatre, but what is more appealing is the originality of the writing and direction which simply stands head and shoulders above any performances ever before witnessed.

It is the testament to both Andrew and Pete for their bravery, their willingness and their gift. And with productions like ‘the Train’, they are definitely heading on the right track.

‘The Train’ is showing at the Nuffield Theatre at the Lancaster Arts, Lancaster University up to January 25th before it embarks on a journey to Wellingborough.

The full list of dates plus booking information follows:

21-25 Jan 2016 (not 24 Jan) –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)

19-21 Feb 2016 - The Castle, Wellingborough

Box Office: 01933 270 007 /

Fri 19 Feb -1pm, 2.30pm, 7pm, 8.30pm, 10pm

Sat 20 Feb- 1pm, 2.30pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8.30pm, 10pm

Sun 21 Feb – The Train. Show times: 1pm, 2.30pm, 4pm, 6pm, 7.30pm

Tickets: £10-£12