French films add style to a tale of love, death and an abandoned child
Innovative theatre company imitating the dog return to Exeter Northcott next week with a play which takes the audience on a delightful and twisted voyage into a subterranean world in which doing the right thing is seen to have terrible consequences.
In 6 Degrees Below the Horizon, an absent father tries to reconcile with the daughter he abandoned as a child as he lays on his deathbed.
"It does have big ideas of death and love, but it's much more of an entertainment in one way," says playwright Andrew Quick, who is also one of the core creative members of imitating the dog.
The company brought their exhilarating production Kellerman to the Northcott in 2009.
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It had a magnificent two-storey set incorporating a revolving stage, flying harnesses, moving masks and stunning back and front projections.
The Gothic tale of obsessive desire, demonic doctors and monstrous nurses was inspired by graphic novels.
Andrew says that this work is different, although it does share a certain style.
"The themes are a bit lighter, there's more pastiche and more of a sense of play and comedy and lightness," says Andrew.
"Originally it was a project I did a long time ago in Greece with the National Theatre of Greece and the National Theatre of Cyprus called Tales From the Bar of Lost Souls.
"It feels a very different piece to the other work we do. It's a lighter piece, although it does have a serious core.
"It starts off with a man who has made contact with his daughter as he's on his deathbed. They begin talking and he starts to spin this fantastical yarn, which is really about him.
"They fall into this French film which is populated with sailors and bar girls and madams. It's more fantastical than other work we've done."
Andrew says he also drew inspiration from his own family.
"I was fascinated by the idea of a port culture – a lot of my family come from that background, they're Cornish and Welsh. My father is from Falmouth and my grandfather, who was originally from Liverpool, got caught at Dunkirk.
"My grandad was 40 and he walked seven miles to sign up for the war, abandoning his kids. That's something that features a lot in my work – what it is to have abandoned your responsibilities.
"I'm an older dad – I've got a two-and-a-half-year-old. A lot of my work is about the relationship between children and family and that sense of responsibility."
Andrew says the play will look very special. "We wanted the audience to feel like they had fallen into a French film," he says. "The colour's very saturated, very bright. I love the rich French text and it's subtitled, like a classic French film. When we did it originally, we needed a middle language that was not Greek or English. None of us was a natural French speaker and we realised how lovely a language it was."
One of the country's most original companies, imitating the dog combine stunning digital projections and inventive storytelling.
"I'm so interested in the relationship between theatre and film," says Andrew. "The technology has changed so much over the last six or seven years that it makes what we do easier and faster. We do have a 'signature' that we're known for."
In writing 6 Degrees Below the Horizon Andrew was inspired by the works of French novelist Genet, German playwrights Frank Wedekind and Bertolt Brecht and artists Pierre et Gilles, known for their highly stylised and romantic photographs.
"It's very romantic, this piece, but there is a big ironic take on it. It's also very moving.
"The undertone of religion, and temptation and forgiveness, makes it almost a biblical story. It's about what you might sell your soul for.
"I think it's very beautiful."
Catch imitating the dog's 6 Degrees Below the Horizon at Exeter's Northcott Theatre on March 26 and 27.