Preview: Orson Welles’ Heart of Darkness @ A Room For London

If, like us, you failed to book a night’s stay in the instantly sold-out A Room For London, here’s another way of getting a toe into the project.

On Saturday from 5.30pm, artist Fiona Banner will present Orson Welles’ unmade screenplay Heart of Darkness from the boat that’s currently perched on top of the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. Emmy award-winning actor, Brian Cox (from Manhunter and Braveheart, among others) will play all the parts in this special reading of Welles’ script, based on Joseph Conrad’s book of the same name.

Cox will perform the entire text live to camera on board the Artangel installation; the results will be screened in the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room. You can rock up anytime after half past-five, and watch the proceedings for free. The live broadcast will last around four-and-a-half hours, with several short breaks.

Orson Welles wrote the script for Heart of Darkness in the late 1930s. It was to be his first film, and he planned to play both the narrator Marlow and the protagonist, Kurtz. However, his script was rejected by Studio RKO for being too political and too expensive. Instead, Welles went on to make a certain Citizen Kane.

Fiona Banner says,

“Like the original novel, Welles’ script is a parody of power gone bad. It’s also a narrative of seduction, both a lens and a mirror. In the 1890s, Conrad’s theme was colonialism, in the 1930s Welles’ theme was the rise of fascism. Today, the focus is greed, globalisation and high finance.”

This isn’t A Room For London’s only connection with Conrad’s book. The boat, designed by David Kohn Architects in collaboration with Fiona Banner, is called Roi des Belges and was inspired by the original riverboat of the same name captained by Conrad whilst in the Congo in 1890.

Look out for future A Room for London events coming throughout the year.

Orson Welles’ Heart of Darkness screens in the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room, Southwark, SE1 from 5.30pm on Saturday. Visit ticketing.southbankcentre.co.uk for more information. Not in London on Saturday? You can catch Orson Welles’ Heart of Darkness online at www.aroomforlondon.co.uk until 30 June.

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