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UAL Research Online

The Emperor Jones

Hudson, Richard (2007) The Emperor Jones. [Art/Design Item]

Type of Research: Art/Design Item
Creators: Hudson, Richard

In this design Hudson explored ways in which the audience’s engagement with the performance could be radically changed by entirely re-shaping the small interior space of the Gate Theatre, London. Eugene O’Neill’s classic play ‘The Emperor Jones’ concerns the journey of a despotic ruler on a Caribbean island who is deposed.

Hudson wanted the audience to experience the action of the play as though under a microscope with a sense of ‘no escape’ for the main protagonist. In order to achieve this, Hudson designed a long rectangular pit with bamboo walls and a brown sand floor. The audience of sixty were positioned in a single row around the edge of the pit, looking down into it and thereby obliged to engage in the action in a ‘sit forward and observe’ position rather than the more usual one of ‘sit back and receive’. In order to maintain the feeling of entrapment Hudson constructed invisible doors in the bamboo walls through which the characters in the play that Jones met on his journey (at one point an entire group in full Victorian dress) entered and exited in blackout. As the play progressed Jones gradually lost the trappings of power until, by the end, he was virtually naked. Hudson sought to re-enforce this disintegration by installing a set of slow moving ceiling fans that were gradually lowered during the play until the audience were almost looking through them. This served to heighten the tension, accentuate the sense of danger, and increase the spectators’ concentration on Jones’ predicament.

Other Contributors:
DirectorSharrock, Thea
Additional Information (Publicly available):

Research interests:

The relationship between design and direction in the performing arts (particularly Opera), and the use of unusual materials and techniques on the stage.

Born in Zimbabwe. Educated in Zimbabwe and Wimbledon School of Art. Assisted Nicholas Georgiadis and Yolanda Sonnabend. Has since designed productions for the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Court Theatre, Almeida and Gate Theatres, Royal Opera, Royal Ballet, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Opera North, Scottish Opera,Vienna State Opera, Metropolitan Opera New York, Chicago Lyric Opera, La Fenice Venice, Maggio Musicale Florence, Opera National de Paris, La Scala Milan, La Monnaie Brussels, Bregenz Festival, Aldeburgh Festival, and many more. Also designed The Lion King for Disney on Broadway, and in London, Tokyo, Hamburg, Paris, Shanghai, Sydney and all over the world.

Current Research:

The use of aluminium bead curtains instead of conventional gauzes as a material to obfuscate and reveal images on stage during a performance of a ballet. The bead curtains have the advantage that the performers can pass through them.
The use of black and white paint to render intricate, layered, bas-relief textures on flat horizontal and vertical surfaces.
The use of different materials and forms of pleating to create costumes that suggest the era of the 1920's and are suitable for use in dance.
Designing the same opera twice (La Forza del Destino by Guisseppe Verdi) with two very different directors, in two very different theatres (the Vienna State Opera and the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels).
Designing a new opera based on a 1960's film (Divorzio all'Italiana, composed by Giorgio Battistelli for the Opera de Nancy, France).

Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Wimbledon College of Arts
Date: 21 October 2007
Locations / Venues:
LocationFrom DateTo Date
Gate Theatre, London
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2009 19:21
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2011 15:50
Item ID: 1911
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/1911

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