E S D E V E L I N
Es Devlin (born 24 September 1971) is a multi-award-winning international stage and costume designer whose work crosses a range of genres: opera, dance, film, theatre, TV and concerts. She also works as creative director for number of pop / rock / rap artists. Devlin designed the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony.
Devlin studied music at the Royal Academy of Music from age 12 as a Junior Exhibitioner while attending Cranbrook School in Kent. She went on to gain a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature at Bristol University, writing her final dissertation on the work of the American poet Adrienne Rich. A fine art foundation course followed at Central St Martins College of Art and Design before she was accepted to study set design on the Motley Theatre Design Course in London where she was taught by the designers Percy Harris, Alison Chitty and Kandis Cook. While studying Devlin worked as a stage hand for Le Cirque Invisible – the circus created by Victoria Chaplin and Jean-Baptiste Thierrée. She also assisted the artist Damien Hirst on Agongo, an installation at the Richard de Marco Gallery in Edinburgh in 1992.
Es’s recent designs include Kanye West Yeezus Arena Tour, Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House, Miley Cyrus BangerzArena Tour, The Master and Margarita for Complicite at Barbican Theatre and Avignon Festival, Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Nights Dream at TFANA New York , the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park, and the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Other concert tour designs include Lady Gaga Monsterball US Theatre/Arena Tour, Kanye / Jay Z Watch the Throne Arena Tour, Muse Resistance Arena Tour, Pet Shop Boys Electric, Pandemonium and FundamentalArena Tours, Nitin Sawhney at IMAX Cinema, Take That Progress and Circus Stadium Tours, Imogen Heap Eclipse Tour and Massive Attack V Adam Curtis at Armory NYC and Manchester International Festival. Es has designed operas for Barcelona, Vienna, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Dresden, Leipzig, as well as Les Troyens andSalome at the Royal Opera House, Carmen and Gadaffi at English National Opera and Imago at Glyndebourne.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere: in words as much as images. I came across a TED talk recently by [author] Matt Ridley called "When ideas have sex". He talks about the fact that when you think you're having an idea, what you're really doing is finding the last jigsaw piece.
“It’s easy when you’re dealing directly with an ego,” she maintains today, “but if there’s one thing worse than the ego it’s the periphery around that ego. Once you get into the 'I said’, 'she said’ game: forget it.” Lady Gaga – who commissioned Devlin to design her Monster’s Ball tour – was “actually pretty easy: she’s incredibly diligent and goes to see a lot of theatre”. The Stones, with whom she worked on last Saturday’s Hyde Park gig, were a blast (“the first thing Mick shouted out to the crowds was, 'I love this set design!’ ”) and the late Harold Pinter, who employed Devlin back in 1998 to make the set for Betrayal at the National Theatre, prompts a head shake of awe. “What a man. He was completely up for doing something different.” When she later contacted the playwright to ask for a reference for her US work visa, however, “Pinter wrote back saying: 'absolutely not. It’s a disgusting country. Why would you possibly want to go there?’ I’ve still got the letter somewhere.”
Over the last seven years, Devlin’s grown accustomed to West’s tastes—curious, relentless, “maximal minimalist”, as she puts it—and unpredictability. Once, for a concert in London’s Hyde Park, she managed to come up with a set made out of faceted gold polygons in only six days. The partnership between a theater stage artist and a global pop star may seem unlikely, but it reflects the reality of the music business today. As music videos stream online like tap water and album sales represent a smaller and smaller percentage of revenue, live shows and merchandise have become the real moneymakers.