The Hairy Ape Stokehole

The Hairy Ape – Old Vic and Park Avenue Armory

The Hairy Ape

The Old Vic, London

Park Avenue Armory, New York

Example sound cues

  1. Through the steamship funnel Sarah Angliss 1:13
  2. Paddy's reverie: remembering the old sailing ships Sarah Angliss 1:56
  3. The Hairy Ape - The rich parade as gaudy marionettes Sarah Angliss 1:31
  4. Into the stokehole Sarah Angliss 1:23
  5. Metal moon Sarah Angliss 2:28
  6. Yank, crushed and dying 2:38
  7. Steel magnate Sarah Angliss 1:22

Read some thoughts on noise and modernity, with some archive material on the first production of The Hairy Ape in London.

I spent autumn 2015 composing sound and music for a new production of Eugene O’Neill’s Expressionist play The Hairy Ape. At The Old Vic, London, directed by Richard Jones.

Written in 1922, The Hairy Ape tells the tells the story of Yank, a labourer who revels in his status as the strongest stoker on a transatlantic liner. When Yank is called a ‘filthy beast’ by the overbred daughter of a steel merchant, he experiences an awakening of consciousness that leads him on a journey through the wealthy neighbourhoods and disenfranchised underbelly of New York society. Directed by Richard Jones, this revival moves rapidly from location to location, one minute in the stokehole of a liner, the next in 1920s New York.

In the Old Vic production, Bertie Carvel plays the troubled protagonist Yank. In 2016 the production moved to the mighty Park Avenue Armory, New York, where Yank was played by Bobby Cannavale.

The soundscape I’ve created makes extensive use of found sounds (collected from metal furniture, submarine gear, steam engines, bowed lampshades and oil cans, violins, vegetables, Charleston records and many other sources). I recorded these and reworked them extensively to create the different moods and scenes of the play. Much of the sound accompanies strange and exquisite choreography from Aletta Collins, showing men at work in the stokehole, the upper class grotesques of New York and more.

Set design is by Stewart Laing and lighting by Mimi Jordan Sherin.

The Hairy Ape

The Hairy Ape in Park Avenue Armory, New York

Park Avenue Armory

The drill hall of The Armory is a huge void – large enough for the set designer Stuart Laing to reimagine the set as a doughnut which circled the raked seating. This turned slowly throughout the show to bring different elements of the set in front of the audience. The drill hall was also highly reverberant. I was able to strip the reverb from all my soundfiles and exploit the natural acoustic of the space to heighten the sense of foreboding – the feeling you were hearing something threatening but indisinct, perhaps from the far end of a mighty ship.

See the set for the New York production being installed in The Park Avenue Armory.

In New York, I was joined by sound associate Mike Winship.