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September 22, 2023 8 min read


We connected with the duo of stage designers behind the rapper's historic Royal Albert Hall presentation to discuss inspirations and the creative process for the performance of "hugo."



Loyle Carner is undoubtedly one of the most potent UK voices of our time. So, it's nothing but fair that he would team up with a five-star team to support and enhance his art. For his historic sold-out Royal Albert Hall concert, he counted on The Unlimited Dream Company, or UDC, as the duo of experts in charge of bringing to life his dream stage design for his first-ever performance with an orchestra.

UDC has been working with Carner for a while now, as the duo was also the name behind other iconic concerts that made the rapper's summer an unforgettable one — from Glastonbury to Reading festival, with performances inspired by his third album hugo. "Loyle is also one of the most important storytellers of this generation, and we put narrative at the heart of everything we do, so it was a dream to have such a strong starting point for designing the show," UDC shared.



The work was collaborative, and the result was a soul-chilling sonic experience that transported the audience straight to the essence of Carner's artistry. "For the tour design, we translated the emotional mood of the album into a 12-hour day/night cycle as a physical and relatable interpretation of the emotional arc – going from the red setting sun of "Hate", through the contemplation of night and back into a new day blazing with a warm sun in "'HGU". There were also a few supporting elements, including a physical car prop, street lamp and a forced perspective gradient back drape, which we used to create the sense of movement and progression," they tell us.

We connected with UDC to get a clear vision of their creative process in coming up with the concert's concept and visuals, discussing their relationship with the rapper and what we can expect for the future of this partnership.  

Head below to read the full interview, now... 


Hello! Thanks so much for chatting with us. To start, how was the overall experience of working with Loyle Carner on this project? Are you happy with the final result you delivered?

We love working with Loyle, he is incredibly collaborative and creatively invested in all aspects of the live show. In one of the first band rehearsals, while still rapping along to the track he sketched out colours for each track he was visualising for the lighting design. Loyle is also one of the most important storytellers of this generation, and we put narrative at the heart of everything we do, so it was a dream to have such a strong starting point for designing the show. After working with Loyle across the year, it feels like each show gets more refined, and this show felt like the culmination of all that work.

Can you tell us more about the concept and inspiration behind the show? How did your creative process evolve from the initial concept to the final result?And how long did it take to plan and design the set?

We designed and created Loyle’s tour for the Hugo album at the start of this year. The album details a set of driving lessons during which he reconnected with his father after just becoming a father for the first time himself. The album describes the progression of their relationship from hate all the way through to forgiveness for his father and ultimately himself.

For the tour design we translated the emotional mood of the album into a 12 hour day/night cycle as a physical and relatable interpretation of the emotional arc - going from the red setting sun of "Hate", through the contemplation of night and back into a new day blazing with warm sun in "HGU". There were also a few supporting elements including a physical car prop, street lamp and forced perspective gradient back drape which we used to create the sense of movement and progression.

For this show specifically, Loyle included a string section, new percussion and re-worked the track arrangements with musical director Avi Barath. Bringing them back to the core emotions and a more stripped-back sound resulting in the warmer tones of the string section creating a new focus. With this in mind we wanted to treat the stage design in the same way, so we stripped out all supporting elements and focused purely on the sun as a motif for emotion. For the Royal Albert Hall we built a 5m ‘sun’ softbox with two other lighting states mounted around it to create sun rays and a ring light to simulate eclipses. The light was controlled by kinesis so we could lower and raise the sun prop throughout the show to create something closer to the natural sun cycle.

The sun also brought us back to Loyle's first reference - Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project which he wanted to use to create a collective experience with the audience and bathe the whole venue in the warm glow of the sun. The circular form of the sun prop also seemed to fit well in the Royal Albert Hall with the bowl shaped space on the array of circular acoustic surfaces in the ceiling. In short, it seemed to belong both in the world of Loyle Carner and the Royal Albert Hall.

In total it took about 3-4 weeks to develop this new concept into a full show design, working through moodboards and sketches to previs and the final construction drawings to realise the show.

What challenges did you face when designing a set to accommodate an orchestral-style performance, such as this show?

The orchestral performance was a big departure from the existing tour which had to be re-considered spatially in terms of how the band were presented on stage with the additional string section and percussion but more importantly the new track arrangements dramatically altered the mood and energy of the performance so we had to re-consider a lot of the moves we had made in previous shows in terms of lighting and show flow. Essentially, the new arrangements led us to create more space for the music to breathe with a balance between dynamic shifts between light and shade.

How important was it for you to incorporate the album’s theme into the visuals and overall experience of the show?

Loyle directs music videos and films, and he is coming from a very visual starting point himself, so it was definitely a key consideration for everyone involved. With this show we were more concerned with how the audience felt towards the music, more than how they intellectually engaged with the story. The sun prop gave us a creative way, using light quality and colour theory to prompt certain moods and emotions for this performance.

This show was titled “All The Way From The Sun” so we wanted to visually communicate this idea. The sun prop was rigged directly above Loyle and could be either angled down to create a softbox or pitched back to create the sun and light the audience in ‘sun rays’. beneath this sun, Loyle stood on a platform which resembled an abstract interpretation of a lunar surface. Very literally, Loyle starts the show on this podium and is physically ‘far from the sun’, then across the show; the light from the sun fills this space with colour, mood and energy.

How closely did you work with Loyle Carner, and how was this dynamic?

We worked very closely with Loyle to create the show. He's an incredibly visual artist and has a very clear vision, but he also loves to work collaboratively which really matches our way of working. Our process involves defining a clear concept with the artist and then exploring options to manifest this. Loyle likes to investigate all options, setting various opposing ideas against each other to help develop a scale or barometer to assess each concept and using this as a way to find the sweet spot.    

How does it feel to have such an iconic venue as the Royal Albert Hall to showcase your art?

We feel that contrast lies at the heart of most exciting creative outputs, whether that's contrast in light and shadow or thematic contrasts. The idea of doing what is essentially a hip-hop show in the Royal Albert Hall was really cool, and provided amazing visual and thematic contrast. The acoustics of the venue are incredible as well and really helped the string section to shine.

The performance included custom-designed art installations. How was the curation process for these pieces? Could you highlight one of them, and what significance did it hold in the show?

Loyle’s podium provided a key narrative device for the show. The flown sun prop provided the emotional mood and the key lighting device for accenting the musicality of the performance but we needed a device to communicate the idea he was ‘far from the sun’. The podium was designed as a stand alone piece, more like an art installation than a prop which presented an abstract interpretation of a lunar surface. Essentially this was a baron and empty space ready to be filled with light, energy and emotion which in turn reflects the emotional heart of the performance. The podium was then surrounded by drapes which ran across the terraced seating behind the stage and then over the stepped orchestral terrace. The draping fabric was propped up in places creating an abstract landscape which reflected the lunar podium.

You’ve been working with Loyle Carner for a while now. How has the preparation for this Royal Albert Hall performance compared to the work done for previous live shows and tours?

Both ourselves and Loyle love to continually interrogate our ideas and concepts to work out how well things are working and where we could tweak and improve things, so this was another great opportunity to do just that. Loyle is great at giving a clear brief and direction but also giving us enough time, space and creative freedom to interpret those ideas. It never feels rushed or things advanced without proper consideration - everyone is invested in making the best show possible and doing whatever it takes to make that happen. 
We wanted this show to fit with the tone of the new musical arrangements and acknowledge the fact the show is being presented in an iconic and historic venue but at the same time we have noticed that a lot of shows really highlight the venue space with lighting and we wanted to make sure this was a Loyle Carner show in the Royal Albert Hall and not have the emphasis the other way round.

What were your biggest challenges during the process of creating this show, and what are you most proud of?

Our biggest challenge is normally time, both design time and the time for set construction and light programming. Like we said previously, everyone in the touring team is committed to making the best show we can so with a few busy days and the odd late night we got it done but when you are working with someone so collaborative and so invested in their art and craft this never felt like a ‘job’ as such.

Looking forward, what are you most excited about for the future of UDC?

We have been taking on more of a full creative direction role with other artists so it is exciting to move in other creative spaces such as music videos, award shows, branding and styling. We have a few big shows with some exciting artists coming up and we are ready to carry on pushing the creative and technological boundaries to create genuinely new and innovative live experiences. We are also looking to explore more site specific artistic commissions for installation art.


Photographyby Andy Paradise / @paradiseph0t0