Dr Dee - Manchester International Festival - Video Design

Creative Team

Rufus Norris Co-Creator, Director

Damon Albarn Co-Creator, Composer, Performer

André de Ridder Conductor, Orchestration Consultant

Stephen Higgins Musical Supervisor

Paul Atkinson Designer

Lysander Ashton for 59 Productions Video & Projection Designer

Marco Sandeman Animation for 59 Productions

Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly, Movement Directors

Paule Constable Lighting Designer

Paul Arditti Sound Designer

Katrina Lindsay Costume Designer

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Dr Dee

Manchester International Festival

About this project

Dr Dee is a new work composed by Damon Albarn and directed by Rufus Norris.

In the age before science and magic parted company, Doctor John Dee was the ultimate Renaissance Man: astrologer, alchemist, mathematician and spy, he coined the term ‘British Empire’ and equipped the Elizabethan Court with the knowledge to make it manifest. The inspiration for both Marlowe’s Faust and Shakespeare’s Prospero, Dee studied the Heavens, he spoke with Archangels, and he paid a bitter personal price.

Dr Dee explores ritual and symbolism in this country, past and present, using John Dee – one of England’s greatest but largely forgotten men – as catalyst.


"... Dee’s story, which flashes by in Mr. Norris’s elegantly hallucinatory staging, suggesting an era that did not divide the natural from the supernatural. In a defining scene Dee (Bertie Carvel) declaims a geometry proof backed by a drumbeat that hints at Elizabethan dances, while drawings and figures swirl around him on scrims."

New York Times

"Albarn has suggested Dr Dee is more a masque than an opera, which makes sense: it can be understood as a series of tableaux, symbolic parades, and striking moments. Norris knows how to create strong shapes on stage, such as the stiff, mid-air suspension of Elizabeth I with great swathes of gold cloth streaming from her. He makes inventive use of concertinaed sheets of paper, which become ever larger screens, to be projected upon or used to wipe, cinematically, between different times, locations, actions. There are falling feathers, streams of dust, storms of pages – as Dee's learning comes to naught when he's duped by Kelley."

Independent on Sunday

"Albarn's opera can seem obscure and sometimes wilfully perverse. But it reaches to the heart of the tragedy of an overreaching intellect destroyed by a deal with a second-rate Mephistopheles. Dee was haunted by his shortcomings: "You know I cannot see, nor scry" he lamented. Yet for Albarn, who ends the evening triumphantly aloft against a panorama of the cosmos, the scry's the limit."

The Guardian

"DAMON ALBARN'S new opera continues an obsession with Englishness stretching back to Parklife. It tells the story of Dr John Dee, a 16th Century scientist and magician who goes mad. Following on from 2007's Monkey: Journey To The West, the BLUR star wrote and appears in the show, performing songs on a platform above the stage. In traditional opera style, the baddie is played by a fat bald bloke with a voice higher than JUSTIN BIEBER after a kick in the privates. The action is hard to follow, but it's always clear who the star is - Damon, even though he is backed by a band including legendary drummer TONY ALLEN, an orchestra and a choir. Songs including Apple Carts and God Fire recall Damon's Blur days.

Hopefully, he'll release an album of the songs."

The Sun