Hudson, Richard (1 of 7) An Oral History of Theatre Design
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2006-12-15, 2007-07-25, 2008-04-04
Interviewee's studio, London
Hudson, Richard 1954- (speaker, male)
Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)
Part 1: Richard Hudson [RH], born Rhodesia, (now Zimbabwe) in 1954. Comments about parents moving to southern Rhodesia after the Second World War; starting a farm; being educated on the farm; going to boarding school in Marandellas (now Marondera) aged seven. Comments about interest in theatre beginning at school; performing as Shylock aged fourteen; difficulty learning lines. Staging ‘The Royal Hunt of the Sun’ and ‘Oliver!’ at senior school; helping with scenery and props. Mention of parents, now deceased, returning to Yorkshire. Parents names were Peter Oban Hudson and Ella Joyce Bayliss [0:03:05] Father’s decision not to be an accountant at his father’s firm; starting the farm. Comments about the farm. [0:04:46] Mention that father was probably born in Southsea and brought up in Highgate; he was educated at Highgate School; father’s attitude to the arts and literature. Story about father sending RH a postcard every week whilst at boarding school. Comments about father’s time at school; sporting abilities; RH’s lack of interest in sport. Story about a rugby match when RH was at school. Parents’ life when they first arrived in Rhodesia; reasons why father liked Africa; grandmother’s diary from visit to Rhodesia. Father’s time in the Air Force during the war. Comments about mother not travelling much; father’s opportunity to travel during the war. Mention that mother was a housewife; her job in the sanatorium at RH’s school; her work as a VAD during the war. [0:12:50] Mother’s childhood in Highgate; mention that she enjoyed sport and met father at the Highgate Tennis Club. Her relationship with parents and siblings; her adventurous nature. Story about mother’s arrival in Cape Town and journey to Rhodesia; not knowing her family; knowing paternal grandfather; his visits to Rhodesia; the money he left which paid for RH to go to Wimbledon School of Art [WSA]. Being a family of hoarders; grandfather’s character. Rivers on the farm that had been dammed and filled with fish; grandfather’s idea that the rivers had gold in them; goldmines on Wedza Mountain. Mother’s fond memories of England; her arthritis. Comment that parents did not live to see the mess that Zimbabwe is in today; mention that RH’s sister still lives in Zimbabwe. RH’s siblings, Jonathan [JoH] and Judith [JuH]; age differences; not knowing JoH well as a child. Similarities between RH and JoH, an interior designer; their different tastes. Sister’s life as the wife of a farmer Zimbabwe; her trips to England to work as a carer; her resourcefulness and strength. [0:22:09] Description of first house that RH lived in with his family; its construction; renovations to the house over years; veranda and summer house that RH later made into a theatre; tree house. Mention of vineyard started by father, selling ‘Hudson’s Country Wine’. Description of different rooms in the house; importance of paraffin freezer; houseboys and gardener. School and clinic nearby; hospital in Marandellas. Jobs carried out by houseboys. Description of RH’s bedroom, decorated by his brother; rag rugs; dropping a bottle of ink in the room. English furniture in the house from grandparents; embroideries by paternal grandmother; other English items. Paintings and reproductions around the house, including a Manet reproduction and a pastel drawing of a Kaffir Boom tree by a Dutch artist. Description of dining room table; mealtimes; barbeques with exotic meats. [0:32:57] Playing at home before starting school; friend from nearby farm; dressing-up cupboard; playing museums. Puppet theatre built by godfather, Ted; joining the Pelham Puppet club; making puppets; description of the puppet theatre; puppet shows based on fairy stories; various puppets. Playing outside; having to be careful with the sun; snakes and chameleons; weather and seasons. Electricity from generator; paraffin lamps. Holidays at Nyanga, with a climate similar to Scotland. Mention of parents’ friends, Pat and David Hamilton; their children who went camping; local community; church; country club, which had a swimming pool; lack of free time in farming; parents’ attitude to religion. Typical working day for father; his wheat and tobacco crops; watering and irrigation; curing tobacco; rules about the tobacco that was sent to auction. Livestock including chicken, turkeys, sheep; dairy; fruit trees. RH’s lack of interest in the farm; walking around the farm with dogs. [0:45:24] Colours and textures in the environment; the sky; the stars at night; influence of Africa on RH’s later work. Sounds including jackals, other wild animals and wind in the eucalyptus trees. [0:47:37] Feelings about starting school and doing lessons at home; difficulties with maths; lessons over the radio. First day at boarding school; dormitories; beginning to wear glasses. Other boys at the school; friend from nearby farm who went to the same school; mention that this was one of few multi-racial school. Favourite lessons English, Art and French; mention of seeing art teacher, Archie Kennedy, from senior school a few years ago; spending time in art room outside of lessons. Description of a typical day at prep school; school uniform; school meals. Feelings about starting high school; friends at school including friend from England, Christopher; learning about music, books and the Swinging Sixties from him. Becoming interested in music later on; borrowing the Chopin’ Etudes and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony from a neighbour Helen McDonald. Differences between prep school and high school; music and art facilities at the latter. [0:59:35] [Plane in background] [1:00:00] Visits home during term time; visits from parents. Christmases at home and at friend’s house; parties; driving home from parties during rainy season. Accidents on local farms. [1:02:16] Music teacher at high school, John Hodgson; his record collection. Involvement with plays at school; purpose-built stages at both schools. Painted cyclorama at prep school; painting a view of Venice for ‘The Merchant of Venice’; making Chinese hats for ‘The Mikado’; building set outdoors for ‘The Royal Hunt of the Sun’ at senior school; feelings about acting in a play.
Life story interview with Richard Hudson (1954-), theatre designer.