Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse combine horror movies and carnivals in thriller Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show

Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse in the dress rehearsal for Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show

IN the wake of their stage recreation of George A. Romero’s classic zombie movie Night Of The Living Dead ™- Remix, Leeds company Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse are joining forces again from tonight to stage the première of the raucous and deliciously dark new tale Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show. 

This show will play as part of Leeds Playhouse’s reopening season of work, designed to safely reintroduce audiences to the live theatre experience,  showcasing the vibrancy and resilience of the artists and venues creating work within the Leeds City Region.

Directed and written by Imitating The Dog’s co-artistic directors Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks,  Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show will open outside Leeds Playhouse on Playhouse Square tonight and tomorrow and will then tour until October 24.

Imitating The Dog bring their theatrical and technical acumen to this unique outdoor live theatre experience. Their innovative story-telling skills will create this dark tale of mischief and immorality, drawing on classic horror movies and the traditions of carnival and medicine shows.

Set in a mythical North and made for these strange times of lockdown, Dr Blood and his motley crew tell a tale of the price paid for pursuing ambition, hypocrisy, and greed.

Imitating The Dog co-director Andrew Quick says: “It’s a strange time to be making a new show but we are really looking forward to meeting the new challenges of creating work in the present conditions.

“We felt it was important to keep going and create a piece that was not only magical and entertaining but will abide by social distancing guidance and be COVID 19 safe. It will be a challenge to make but it is a hugely entertaining production that is scary in parts but also full of fun, with some deep and dark themes running through it.

“We’ll be using screen and camera technologies for which we are known and I just can’t wait to share with audiences and venues like Leeds Playhouse that have supported us over the past decade and for us all to come together and experience all the joys of live theatre outdoors.”

Leeds Playhouse artistic director James Brining says: “We are working together with all our theatre partners to make sure that everyone who is coming back to watching live theatre does so in a safe environment.

“It is fantastic to see artists and theatre companies who throughout this time have grabbed the opportunity to create new work and explore different ways to entertain an audience. We are thrilled to be working once again with Imitating The Dog, who are constantly looking at new ways to create theatre and, in this case, will showcase the beautiful new space on Playhouse Square.”

The production’s creative team will feature design by Laura Hopkins (Black Watch and Peter Pan, National Theatre of Scotland; The Divide, Edinburgh International Festival and The Old Vic, and projection and video design by Simon Wainwright (Night Of The Living Dead ™- Remix, Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse and The Kid Stays In The PictureRoyal Court).

Lighting is by Andrew Crofts (Night Of The Living Dead ™- Remix, Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse and Trash Cuisine, Belarus Free Theatre and The Young Vic); original music has been composed by James Hamilton and models made by Matthew Tully.

After Leeds Playhouse, further Yorkshire performances follow at The Courtyard, Piece Hall, Halifax, on October 9 and 10. Plans are afoot to release a filmed version for streaming: watch this space for more details

In line with current Government guidelines, audiences will have a limited capacity with social distancing in place. To check ticket availability for Leeds Playhouse, go to leedsplayhouse.org.uk.

All ticket proceeds from the tour will go to support the tour venues during the lockdown.

Zombie alert! Imitating The Dog’s Night Of The Living Dead – Remix re-surfaces online

Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse in their shot-for-shot remix of Night Of The Living Dead

“THEY’RE coming to get you, Barbara”… from tomorrow morning at 10am when Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse launch the online premiere of their hit 2020 co-production of Night Of The Living Dead – Remix.

In 1968, Night Of The Living Dead started out as a low-budget George A Romero indie horror movie telling the story of seven strangers taking refuge from flesh-eating ghouls in an isolated farmhouse.

Fifty years on, seven performers enter the stage armed with cameras, a box of props and a rail of costumes. Can they recreate the ground-breaking film, shot for shot before our eyes, using whatever they can lay their hands on?

Set the task of re-enacting 1,076 camera edits in 95 minutes, they face an heroic struggle. Knowing success demands wit, skill and ingenuity, what could possibly go wrong?

Imitating The Dog’s poster for their Leeds Playhouse co-production of Night Of The Living Dead – Remix

In their 2020 stage production, Leeds masters of digital theatre Imitating The Dog create a love-song to the cult Sixties’ film in a re-making and re-mixing with a new subtext that attempts to understand the past – the assassinations of JFK, MLK and Robert Kennedy – in  order not to have to repeat it. 

Staged in the Courtyard at Leeds Playhouse from January 24 to February 1, their version is in turns humorous, terrifying, thrilling, thought-provoking and joyous. Above all, in the re-telling, Night Of The Living Dead – Remix  becomes a searing parable for our own complex times.

Presented by courtesy of Image Ten, Inc, Night Of The Living Dead– Remix can be watched online at imitatingthedog.co.uk/watch from 10am tomorrow (April 17). For a behind-the-scenes video, go https://vimeo.com/386234875

Imitating The Dog shows go online for fortnightly streaming from tomorrow

Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse in the 2020 co-production of Night Of The Living Dead – Remix. Picture: Edward Waring

INNOVATIVE Leeds theatre company Imitating The Dog are responding to the Coronavirus restrictions by going online with a fortnightly streaming.

Their cutting-edge work from the past 20 years will be made available through their website, imitatingthedog.co.uk, kicking off tomorrow (April 3) with projection project Oh, The Night!.

Every fortnight on Fridays for the foreseeable future, Imitating The Dog will release the next in a selection from their theatre performances and sited work.

Look out, in particular, for 2020’s Night Of The Living Dead – Remix, a shot-for-shot stage re-creation of George A Romero’s cult 1968 zombie movie, made in co-production with Leeds Playhouse, streaming on April 17.

Further performances will include Arrivals And Departures, a strange and fantastical bedtime story, commissioned in 2017 by Hull: UK City of Culture to look at the East Yorkshire port’s legacy of migration, on May 1, and 6 Degrees Below The Horizon, a macabre and playful tale involving sailors, pimps, barflies, chorus girls and nightclub singers, on May 15. Projection project Yorkshire Electric, on May 29, uses clips from the Yorkshire Film Archive.

Further productions will be announced through social media in the coming weeks. Each will remain on the website and can be viewed on a Pay-What-You-Like basis.

Imitating The Dog’s Yorkshire Electric at the Spa Theatre, Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

The resulting income will go into a development fund to facilitate the company supporting freelance artists and practitioners to create new work.

Co-artistic director Simon Wainwright says: “With the end of our own Night Of The Living DeadRemix tour being cancelled and so, so many events and performances now postponed, we thought we’d make some of our past shows available for people to watch online.

“We’re in a lucky position to have some fantastic recordings of past work, mostly filmed by our friends Shot By Sodium. It’s obviously no substitute for the real thing but in these isolated days, and until we can get together in a room again, we hope these videos will provide joy, thinking and entertainment in equal measure.” 

Fusing live performance with digital technology, Imitating The Dog’s two decades of ground-breaking work for theatres and other spaces has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people at venues, outdoor festivals and events across the world.

Among other past productions are Hotel Methuselah, A Farewell To Arms and Heart Of Darkness, while their sited work has included light festivals.

For more information and to watch productions from April 3, go to  imitatingthedog.co.uk/watch/.

6 Degrees Below The Horizon: Imitating The Dog’s macabre and playful tale of sailors, pimps, barflies, chorus girls and nightclub singers

 Here are the upcoming productions:

Friday, April 3: Oh, The Night!

ONE wintry night, a bedtime story is being told, but it’s late, time for the light to go off, time for the story to pause until tomorrow night.

However, one child starts to wonder… one child at first, but then another… and another. It might be bedtime and it might be late but without the end to the story how can they possibly sleep?

What’s happened to the characters? Where have they gone? Are they just stranded there, waiting for earth to turn its circle, so their story can carry on the next night?

The children decide to find out. They creep past the grown-ups, out of the house and to who knows where to find out what happens and how their story ends.

They find bears and foxes, monsters and ghouls, elves and wizards all stranded in the night, hiding or hunting, not knowing who to scare or where to run. All stuck in a place between.

Together, they go on a journey through the night, to the morning and to the safety of the light.

Performed in Hull, Oh, The Night! combined elements of bedtime stories gathered from around the north of Europe to create a new fable for 2018. The work was commissioned by Absolutely Cultured for Urban Legends: Northern Lights and featured a community chorus and soundtrack from Finnish composer Lau Nau.

Night Of The Living Dead – Remix: Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse match George A Romero’s film shot for shot

Friday, April 17: Night Of The Living Dead – Remix

IN 1968, Night Of the Living Dead started out as a low-budget independent horror movie by George A Romero, telling the story of seven strangers taking refuge from flesh-eating ghouls in an isolated farmhouse.

Fifty years on, seven performers enter the stage armed with cameras, a box of props and a rail of costumes. Can they recreate the ground-breaking film, shot-for-shot before our eyes and undertake the seemingly impossible?

Requiring 1,076 edits in 95 minutes, it is an heroic struggle. Success will demand wit, skill and ingenuity and is by no means guaranteed.

Night Of The Living Dead – Remix is an Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse co-production, presented by courtesy of Image Ten, Inc.

Friday, May 1: Arrivals And Departures

IMITATING The Dog’s work for Hull: UK City of Culture 2017 put a poetic spin on the history of arrivals in and departures from the city. The piece looked at the past of migration from a contemporary perspective, exploring the journeys that have gathered a population and moulded a landscape.

Using The Deep, in Hull, as both canvas and building blocks, Arrivals And Departures pulled together strands of the complex and universal issues of migration as a wider subject matter.

The work was created as part of the Made In Hull opening celebrations for Hull: UK City of Culture.

Imitating The Dog’s Arrivals And Departures for the Made In Hull opening to Hull: UK City of Culture at The Deep, Hull, in 2017

Friday, May 15: 6 Degrees Below The Horizon

THIS macabre and playful tale of sailors, pimps, barflies, chorus girls and nightclub singers is a startling and visually stunning work, where the audience views the action through windows and moving frames. In doing so, they piece together a modern fable of failed dreams, lost love and the guilt of absent fatherhood.

Building on the successes of Hotel Methuselah and Kellerman, in 2012 the company created an immersive experience for audiences with a captivating fusion of cinema and theatre.

Part French film, part Edwardian vaudeville, and drawing on the works of Genet, Wedekind, and Brecht,6 Degrees Below The Horizon undertakes a delightful and twisted voyage into a shadowy world wherein there are no certainties.

Friday, May 29: Yorkshire Electric

YORKSHIRE Electric travels from the dales to the coast on board the footage of the Yorkshire Film Archive.

Using video mapping, intricate lighting and a soundtrack from the Leeds band Hope & Social, the show transformed the Spa Theatre, Scarborough, offering the audience the opportunity to wander through 100 years of Yorkshire lives and landscapes, from the farming hills to the holiday beaches and back again.

Bringing together Imitating The Dog and architectural lighting specialist Phil Supple, the piece offered the opportunity to enjoy rarely seen footage of a century of Yorkshire life in your own time.

REVIEW: Night of The Living Dead – Remix and Dr Korczak’s Example at Leeds Playhouse

Night Of The Living Dead – Remix: theatre and film in synchronicity

REVIEW: Night Of The Living Dead – Remix, Leeds Playhouse/Imitating The Dog, Courtyard Theatre, Leeds Playhouse, until February 15; Dr Korczak’s Example, Leeds Playhouse, Bramall Rock Void, Leeds Playhouse, until February 15. Box office: 0113 213 7700 or at leedsplayhouse.org.uk

FIRSTLY, apologies for the tardy reviewing, but there is still time aplenty to see these two contrasting yet equally impactful productions at the restructured Leeds Playhouse.

The human condition, what we do to each other, lies at the heart of both pieces, and at a time when the divisive aspects and little island mentality of Brexit are coming home to roost after cutting the umbilical cord with Europe on January 31, they are even more resonant.

American film-maker George A Romero, from The Bronx, New York,  would have turned 80 on Tuesday, making Leeds Playhouse and cutting-edge Leeds company Imitating The Dog’s co-production very timely.

Romero’s trademark was gruesome horror movies, satirical in tone yet serious in their message, delivered as it was through depicting variations on a zombie apocalypse. Night Of The Living Dead, from 1968, set the template and here comes a Remix that is at once theatrical and filmic.

In a city where football coach Marcelo Bielsa preaches the value of repetition, yet still with unpredictable results, the Playhouse/Imitating The Dog company sets itself the challenge of mirroring Romero’s film, frame by frame. The two are shown side by side on screen, synchronised in motion with actors saying the lines.

Your gaze goes from screen to screen but also you watch the actors in the act of re-making the film, switching between performing and working the cameras, and defying the odds in pulling off the feat when seemingly always up against the clock with the need for improvisation, confronted  by limited resources. Round of applause, please, to Laura Atherton, Morgan Bailey, Luke Bigg, Will Holstead, Morven Macbeth, Matt Prendergast and Adela Rajnovic.

You find yourself appreciating a “dance” show as much as a theatre and film one, because the movement across, on, off, and around the stage has the ebb and flow of choreography. Another round of applause, then, to co-directors Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks; projection and video designer Simon Wainwright; lighting designer Andrew Crofts; composer James Hamilton and on-stage model creator and operator Matthew Tully. Laura Hopkins’s set and costume designs are a show in themselves too.

Night Of The Living Dead – Remix is not a mere tribute act of breath-taking invention and bravura humour. Instead, it seeks to give 1960s’ American social and political context to Romero’s message by bleeding in film and sound of John F Kennedy, Senator brother Robert and Dr Martin Luther King’s famous speeches and the cast’s re-enactment of coverage of their assassinations. The words echo down the years, haunting and disturbing, all the more so when matched with a zombie apocalypse.

Robert Pickavance as Dr Korczak and Gemma Barnett as Stepanie in Dr Korczak’s Example

The Playhouse’s new third performance space, the Bramall Rock Void studio, made its autumn debut with Charley Miles’s all-female Yorkshire Ripper drama There Are No Beginnings, giving voice to a blossoming North Yorkshire writer.

Now it turns the spotlight on the Holocaust in a Playhouse production timed to mark Holocaust Memorial Day(January 27) in a city with both Jewish and Polish communities. Playhouse artistic director James Brining had commissioned David Greig to write Dr Korczak’s Example when working in young people’s theatre in Scotland 20 years ago for performances in school halls, and on moving to Leeds he read it with the Playhouse youth theatre “a year or so ago”.

That prompted Brining to direct this winter’s production, turning the spotlight anew on the Polish Jewish doctor, children’s author, storyteller, broadcaster and educator Janusz Korczak, who brought liberal and progressive ideals to running a ghetto orphanage for 200 children in Warsaw.

His principles live on, becoming the basis for the United Nations Convention on the Rights Of Children that still prevails. That is the history and the present of a story that Greig turns into a play set in 1942 that is at once grim and yet hopeful because of the example of the title that Dr Korczak set.

Brining’s production is supported by the Linbury Prize for Stage Design, a prize for emerging designers that sees set and costume designer Rose Revitt turn the new studio back to rubble, with piles of bricks, dusty furniture and desks.

Greig’s play is a three hander, wherein Playhouse regular Rob Pickavance brings gravitas, warmth and sensitivity to Dr Korczak, while Danny Sykes and Gemma Barnett announce talents to watch.

Sykes plays Adzio, brittle, brutalised and psychologically damaged at the hands of adults, his 16 years of childhood stolen from him, as he becomes the latest child to be taken in by Korczak. Barnett’s Stepanie is a beacon, benefiting from Korczak’s care already and drawn to trying to help the deeply bruised Adzio.

David Shrubsole’s sound deigns and compositions complement the tone, Rachel Wise’s movement direction is as important as Brining’s direction, and the actors’ use of models (the size of Action Man, without being glib) to play out several scenes has a powerful impact too.

Having a recording of Leeds children reading Dr Korczak’s principles for children’s rights to freedom, respect and love at the play’s close is a fitting finale, one that echoes into the Leeds night air.

Charles Hutchinson    

Night Of The Living Dead has a horror remix for modern times at Leeds Playhouse

Night Of The Living Dead – Remix in rehearsal at Leeds Playhouse. All pictures: Ed Waring


INNOVATIVE Leeds company Imitating The Dog are linking up with Leeds Playhouse for a unique shot-for-shot stage re-creation of George A. Romero’s 1968 zombie movie Night Of The Living Dead™ “for today’s theatre audiences”. 

Directed by Imitating The Dog’s co-artistic directors Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks, Night Of The Living DeadTM Remix will run in the Courtyard Theatre from January 24 to February 15 before a British tour. 

In 1968, Night Of The Living Dead started out as a low-budget, independent, politically charged horror movie, telling the story of seven strangers taking refuge from flesh-eating ghouls in an isolated farmhouse. As the night draws in, their situation becomes desperate, hope turns to despair and the picket-fence American dream is smashed apart.

Fifty years on, seven performers enter the Courtyard stage armed with cameras, a box of props and a rail of costumes. Can they recreate the ground-breaking film, shot-for-shot before our eyes, using whatever they can lay their hands on?

Meeting the challenge of 1,076 edits in 95 minutes will be a heroic struggle. “Success will require wit, skill and ingenuity and is by no means guaranteed” for the cast of Laura Atherton; Morgan Bailey; Luke Bigg; William James Holstead; Morven Macbeth; Matt Prendergast and Adela Rajnović.  

“Success will require wit, skill and ingenuity and is by no means guaranteed” : the challenge facing Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse

Playing a key role too will be Quick and Brooks’s production team of Imitating The Dog’s projection and video designer Simon Wainwright; designer Laura Hopkins; lighting designer Andrew Crofts and composer James Hamilton.

George A. Romero’s 1968 film presented an apocalyptic vision of paranoia, the breakdown of community and the end of the American dream. In 2020’s stage production, digital theatre practitioners Imitating The Dog compose a love-song to the cult movie in a re-make and remix that “attempts to understand the past in order not to have to repeat it”. 

The new Leeds-stamped version is in turns humorous, terrifying, thrilling, thought-provoking and joyous. Above all, in the retelling, it becomes a searing parable for our own complex times.

Imitating The Dog’s Andrew Quick says: “Looking at the state of the world today, it seems so appropriate that we are going back to this seminal story, the original zombie movie. Rehearsals have been great fun so far and it’s amazing how scary and relevant Romero’s Sixties’ vision still seems.”

“A searing parable for our own complex times”: Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse’s co-production of Night Of The Living Dead – Remix

Playhouse artistic director James Brining enthuses:“We’re thrilled to be working with Imitating The Dog for this momentous project. They’re a fantastic local company who brilliantly fuse together technology with live action. I can’t wait for us to work with them to be able to breathe new life into this well-known classic that has been celebrated for many years.”

Russ Streiner, who produced and appeared as Johnny in Romero’s film, says: “Before Night Of The Living Dead™ became the classic film it is, it started as a collection of ideas and story points; story points that are timeless in their reflection of the human condition.

“The common link between [film production company] Image Ten long ago and Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse today is a genuine love of the productions we present to the public, and we’re  absolutely thrilled that they have teamed up to present their own authorised fresh and exciting retelling of the story that began over 50 years ago for us.

“This retelling goes back to the roots of where ‘Night’ started with experimental ideas and a new imagining of the story – this time coupled with the dynamic of live actors performing to a live audience.”

Tickets are on sale on 0113 213 7700 or at leedsplayhouse.org.uk.

The horror, the horror: Imitating The Dog in Heart Of Darkness in 2019

Did you know?

LEEDS company Imitating The Dog have been making ground-breaking work for theatres and other spaces for 20 years, fusing live performance with digital technology. Among their past productions are A Farewell To Arms, Hotel Methuselah and Heart Of Darkness, the latter two playing York Theatre Royal in 2010 and 2019 respectively.