Why Es Devlin would be my dream stage designer to carry the UK through the Eurovision Storm

So it’s SuRie for the UK. With Storm.

It’s almost a week since the bookies were upset in Brighton and blogposts with another characters to populate a dozen Perry & Croft sitcoms have been penned since. So this isn’t a review of the You Decide show (which was thoroughly enjoyable, we sat in the stalls, everyone I was with was *beaming* during SuRie’s initial performance) or a summing up of Britain’s chances in Lisbon (although a beefed up chorus could make this a rather special song for the scoreboard). No. This post is none of those things.

In many ways, it’s a wish.

Last year, Netflix uploaded a documentary series focusing on designers of different disciplines. Called Abstract, it examined the processes that goes into creating trainers, cars, buildings, typefaces, illustrations, buildings, all sorts. Well, not allsorts – unless they’re saving Bertie Bassett for series two.

I gobbled this series up. Design is something I’ve always been passionate about. If you want to keep me amused on a drizzly day, direct me into an empty room with an IKEA catalogue, the Made.com app and some colour charts and I’ll have everything planned out for less than a grand within the hour. Until I change my mind again and decide that one wall should be shocking pink surrounded by muted grey on all sides and perhaps a black ceiling. But I’m drifting. I need a Storm to haul me back in.

One episode in Abstract’s run featured stage design. As with all other instalments, one designer is the focus of the show, their life and work informing the content. The stage designer Abstract homed in on was Es Devlin and ever since I gobbled up every moment of this fascinating programme, I’ve thought one thing. This. Woman. Needs. To. Stage. Our. Eurovision. Entry.

Of course, when you consider Devlin’s CV, you wonder if Eurovision would ever interest her. The closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics (where the spokes of the union flag radiated out from a central dais featuring the capital’s skyline) was one of hers but although it’s her most high profile work it feels the least indicative of her style, almost as if her ideas were diluted by committee (surely not…).

Instead, it’s important to look at the other stuff Es has put before us (as long as you had the tickets in your mitts to see it).

Years before Shady Lady, she was putting individual band members in gauze-covered boxes and projecting images on to them. She mapped out entire buildings with digital projection in the mid ’90s, when nobody else was doing it, making the toughest of plays to stage easier to penetrate for both director and audience.

The pair of giants which made a memorable backdrop to Take That’s tour a few years back? That was Es. Those smokey eyes of Adele that stamped a moment on Adele’s live performances? Another Devlin special. Beyonce projected onto huge revolving slabs of geometry? Yup, that’s our Es again.

I may be over-Es-ing the pudding but this is a woman with a seemingly supernatural sensibility of marrying music, graphics, light, setting, performer and performance into an irresistible dish to be lapped up in once sitting. A marriage that’s meat to a Eurovision entry which needs both juror and casual viewer to sit up, absorb and find that they haven’t noticed the tea dribbling down their jowels three minutes later, it’s all been so wonderful.

Watch this episode on Netflix if you can. It should hopefully make you see why Es could take this year’s entry and turn it into something even more engaging. I doubt there’d be an umbrella in sight. There would be one lyric, one syllable, one musical phrase that lingers with her, inspiring a colour, a shape or theme that eventually emerges into a fully formed staging that would transform Storm into something you absolutely, definitely wouldn’t NOT want to vote for. And I’ve already said it – but have to stress it – I bet there wouldn’t be a cloud or brolly in sight. As well as the kinetic energy and the wow factor, another thing Devlin brings to her work is a helluva lot of humour. Imagine turning Miley Cyrus’ tongue into a shocking pink helter skelter which said Cyrus then slides down to make her entrance. Brilliant stuff.

As wishes go, this couldn’t be more academic. An Instagram post by Black Skull, the creative team behind the UK’s Eurovision staging since 2015, confirmed that they would be on Storm duty in Lisbon (as they were in Brighton). And that’s no bad thing.

With experience comes learning and the stupendous staging of Lucie Jones’ entry last year shows that these lads have been taking notes. They’ll no doubt want to top Kyiv in Lisbon and there’s no reason to think they’re not capable. But if inspiration does take a while to thunder from the heavens, hopefully one of them will have Es on their Rolodex and they can invite her round for tea, custard creams and an ever so helpful brainStorm.




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