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Heart of Darkness, Edinburgh Fringe - Review
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My EQView feature this week is a review of Heart of Darkness at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Heart of Darkness is a gripping adaptation of Conrad’s famous novel, where less is more, and a solo actor delivers a knockout performance. One of the most incredibly powerful pieces of storytelling I have ever had the privilege to witness. Authentic, gripping and completely absorbing. 5 shining stars!

My EQView review of Heart of Darkness is here:
http://eqview.com/2015/09/02/heart-of-darkness-review/

‪Cut and pasted from the EQView website:

HEART OF DARKNESS - REVIEW

Heart of Darkness at the Space Triplex was a very ambitious production – an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s famous novel, performed as a solo show – a very big ask. Scandal and Gallows Theatre rose to the challenge and delivered a very powerful theatre experience.

The staging and the props were simplicity itself (just three crates). This meant your attention was focused solely on Guy Clarke – the narrator/performer of the piece – and there were no distractions. The production’s success or failure rests on the quality of his performance every night. This is the kind of theatre I love as the writing and the acting/performing have to carry the piece.

As soon as the lights went down, you were introduced to Marlow, the narrator, and the central character of the piece. Marlow reminisced about being a boy, looking at a map of the world, and being drawn to the unknown quantity that was the African interior. Full of excitement, he explained how he had always wanted to be an adventurer and to explore the uncharted regions of the world.

Clarke enabled you to see the world through Marlow’s eyes, and took you on Marlow’s adventure. You felt you were journeying along with him, every step of the way. Clarke successfully conveyed the excitement Marlow felt when he embarked on his adventure, but you could slowly feel the tension and fear rising as his journey unfolded.

Marlow’s initial excitement ebbs away as he journeys further and further into the interior in search of Kurtz. Kurtz is a member of the Company, one of their most successful employees, delivering the greatest quantity of ivory, and he has been taken ill. As he stops at each of the colonial outposts, Marlow witnesses the brutality and the cruelty of the colonial regime. The novel and this production bring you face to face with the dark heart of European Colonialism and it is not a pretty sight – far from it.

As Marlow travels on, in pursuit of Kurtz, his anxiety and fear rises, as he wonders what Kurtz has done to win such notoriety. Kurtz is a very successful trader, has a cast-iron grip over the natives, and acts like a King, but at what personal cost has his power been won? When Marlow finds Kurtz, what sort of man (or monster) will he find, and what other horrors will he uncover? Eventually Marlow finds Kurtz, and learns something about his regime. But, by this time, Kurtz is too ill and dies on the return journey.

The closing scene, where Marlow returns Kurtz’s personal effects to his grieving fiancée, is very moving. Marlow knows the truth about Kurtz and his reign of terror, but his fiancée wants to believe that Kurtz was a good and decent man, a credit to his friends, family and country. When she asks Marlow for Kurtz’s dying words, Marlow judges it is better to tell a white lie.

Marlow can shield Kurtz’s fiancée from reality, but he will never be able to erase from his own mind and soul the brutal sights he witnessed and the experiences he endured. His innocence is gone, he is ruined forever, and he will have to carry this nightmare with him for the rest of his life. Over the course of 50 minutes, Marlow has gone from being a young man, brimming with excitement at the prospect of adventure, to a shadow of his former self, a broken man.

The production is very true to its source material – the script is an abridged version of the novel and derives directly from the novel. The production captures the highs and lows of Marlow’s adventure, all the characters he encounters along the way, and is very effective at lifting the curtain on the brutality and horror at the heart of the colonial enterprise and which taints Kurtz’s regime.

Clarke delivers an exquisite performance. He tells the story with real energy and vigour, addressing each member of the audience, and drawing them in. He successfully brings to life a host of characters – not just the central characters of Marlow and Kurtz, but also the General Manager, the Doctor, the Chief Accountant, the Russian Trader, and Kurtz’s fiancée. All of these characters were fully realized, and were an eloquently detailed character study, clearly differentiated, even if they only had a few lines.

As Clarke is the only actor/performer, and the staging and props are so simple, you have to listen intently to the words and use your imagination. This makes this theatre experience similar to reading the novel – you have to free your imagination and, because you are doing some of the work yourself, this draws you into the piece, and helps you to engage with it fully.

This was an exceptionally powerful piece of drama – for its 50 minutes running time, I was transported to the 19th Century and to the dark heart of Africa. I was gripped from start to finish, and Clarke’s performance is so compelling, I was riveted – I found it impossible to tear myself away. One of the most incredibly powerful pieces of storytelling I have ever had the privilege to witness. Authentic, gripping and completely absorbing. 5 shining stars.

Heart of Darkness (by Scandal and Gallows Theatre) played at the Space Triplex from 7 to 29 August 2015 as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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I haven't read any Conrad and don't think I have the courage to do so as it sounds entirely shattering! But I can appreciate how you describe this intense, one man performance, and how absorbing it must have been. :-)

If you have seen or heard of the film Apocalypse Now, that is an adaptation of Conrad's Heart of Darkness relocated to the Vietnam War.

Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness is well worth a read :)

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