Moving Hands Theatre

The Emperor's New Machine

Home Shows Animation About us Workshops Education International

The Story

The Emperor loves clothes. He loves his clothes so much, he lives in his wardrobe. Together with his designer friend Ratboy and his fantastic clothes making machine they have fun dressing up all day, every day.

Things go pear-shaped when TV's fashion queens Cookie and Crumble burst in filming this week's Celebrity Challenge. They try to transform the Emperor, but they just embarrass him with their strange styles. Can Ralph and his magical machine rescue the Emperor? Will Cookie and Crumble steal this miraculous fashion invention? Will the audience get a machine makeover?

Moving Hands mix Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes and British inventor classics like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Wallace and Gromit to make a brand new story full of visual tricks, excitement and illusion. The Emperor's New Machine is a funny, exciting and touching story about friendship and trust from the theatre company that brought The Ugly Eagle to The REP.

Birmingham Repertory Theatre

The Emperor's New Machine

Moving Hands and The Birmingham Rep collaborate with South African mechanical sculptors The Odd Enjinears, who use a unique blend of sculpture, music, machinery and performance, making striking machines that seem to manipulate the performers inside them.

In this production Mark O 'Donovan designed and made the machine, which is manipulated by a puppet, that in turn uses the machine to manipulate a human.

The show is based on The Emperor's New Clothes. It appealed to us for its message of innocence and honesty, as well as for how it resonates with today’s world of media-dictated image obsession and it’s influence on children from a young age.

It’s a story of trusting and listening to yourself and those closest to you.

More of our unique style of visual performance mixing and projecting live and pre-recorded imagery that is fully interactive with the performers, puppets and audience.

Caroline Mcdowell 2005


A fun story
Birmingham Post

............. clever audience involvement as Cookie and Crumble scan the theatre with a live video camera in search of fashion victims and then switch seamlessly to a recording to select their participants.

Alison Carney invests Cookie with a menacingly sweet smile and John Flitcroft's Emperor clowns affably as a buffoon in the buff ....

You only have to be four years old to see this show but there's no upper age limit.



Looks Good!

A glance at the production credits below will give an idea of where the emphasis of Moving Hands Theatre Company’s show lies. A huge mechanism of cogs and wheels colourfully occupies the heights, chugging into action as Ralph the loyal imperial rat manufactures the Emperor’s daily clothing to order, fitting whatever image the ruler wants for the day, as imaged on a screen. This gruff puppet, operated by Hands’ artistic director, is ever-willing but gets put out of place by the new technology.

For this is The Emperor’s New Clothes shot forward into the age of reality TV. Even the emperor is a fan of makeover programme ‘The Cookie and Crumble Show’. When it bursts into his life, via his wardrobe, the emperor’s in awe of ever-confident presenter Cookie, able to copy her signature words and gestures .

Cookie contrasts public smiles with private scowls, being cruel off-camera to her fashion victims as she is to her sidekick Crumble, who faces the boot before the end. By then, seeing her own power threatened, Cookie’s responded with something of Andersen’s mystery tailor, creating a design for the Emperor’s big parade which only the stupid, lazy or ugly will fail to see.

A lot of themes are lying around here: the power of the media, fake and genuine friendship, bullying, pressure to conform – and, of course, visual colour and opportunities for humour. The show scores well .

Crumble:   Victoria Cannell
Cookie:   Alison Carney
The Emperor:   John Flitcroft
Raphael:   Caroline McDowell

Director:   Steve Johnstone
Artistic Director , designer:   Caroline McDowel
Artist/Designer/Animated Characters:   Marlin Vernon
Machine Engineer:   Mark O’Donovan
Lighting:   Jonathan Tritton
Projections/Animation:   Lourina Jansen van Rensburg
Animation/Editing:   Koeka Stander
Music:   Gerry Smith
Costumes:   Lorinda Spruyt, Debbie Williams

© Moving Hands Theatre 2005