As the cast and crew of The Emperor are busy rehearsing for their September debut, we spoke to our very own Company Stage Manager Jamie Bryon about his personal connection to the story and encounter with the Emperor himself…
My Mum’s sister was already living in Ethiopia with her husband and when they came home to Bolton my Dad would ask them what Ethiopia was like. My Uncle would try to explain but eventually he said ‘Why don’t you apply for a job there?’. So my Dad started to apply and the British Embassy got back to him and said that there was an engineer position in Addis Ababa that he might want to go for, and he did and he got it. We moved over there and went to an all English school which Americans went to as well. It was set up by Brigadier Sandford who was very influential with the Emperor.
The Emperor would always want to know what was going on. My Dad was an engineer in a hospital and he recalls that sometimes the doors would bust open and bodyguards would walk in. He’d ask ‘What’s going on?’ and they’d say ‘Oh, the Emperor’s here’. The Emperor would literally just walk into your office and say ‘Right, what’s happening today?’. My Dad would have to explain and then off he’d go.
My Dad recalls a story where I’m so small he can carry me. We went to an event and my Dad knew that the Emperor was coming. I’d been plonked in front of this Punch and Judy show when my Dad came over and tapped on my shoulder. He told me that the Emperor was coming and picked me up in his arms. We went over to the veranda and he said ‘In a moment if you look down there, the Emperor’s car will drive up and we might see him’.
Suddenly the car appeared, the doors opened and out stepped the Emperor. He came up onto the veranda and everybody just expected him to walk straight into the event but instead he came directly towards us, put his hands straight out, shook my hand and said ‘Nice to meet you’. My dad was like ‘Oh my God, is this really happening?’.
I was looking over his shoulder and the Emperor said to my Dad, ‘What is your son looking for?’ My dad said, ‘I’m so sorry your Majesty, he really loves Punch and Judy…’. The Emperor said ‘Oh, that’s interesting, your son would rather watch Punch and Judy than meet the Emperor?’. My Dad replied, ‘Yes, it seems so!’.
The Emperor wasn’t upset about it. It was just a funny situation because I was this little kid looking over his head all because I really wanted to see Punch and Judy. My Dad has very fond memories of the Emperor, as does everybody. He came across as a very gentle and very curious man and it was nice to think that his world might come into your world without much warning. That was my encounter with the Emperor.
Want to know more about our production of The Emperor. Take a peek into rehearsals…
The Emperor runs at HOME between Wed 28 Sept – Sat 8 Oct. Find out more and book tickets here.