Following her BA Hons at Edinburgh College of Art, specialising in costume design, Emily James completed a post-graduate design course at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. During this time she was a finalist for the 1997 Linbury Prize for Stage Design, with her work exhibited at the National Theatre.
In 1998, Emily was awarded a design bursary at the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre, where she designed Jerusalem Syndrome by Amy Rosenthal for the new Studio space. She went on to design Jess Walter’s Terracotta, directed by Marianne Elliott – a co-production for Hampstead Theatre/Birmingham Rep.
During ten subsequent years in London, her work has encompassed many genres from new writing to classic plays, musical theatre and opera.
Designs include: Freebird – New Vic Studio, Bristol Old Vic; Cyrano de Bergerac, Bugsy Malone – The Drum, Plymouth Theatre Royal; Sitting Pretty – National Tour; The Dream Train – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh; Peter Grimes – Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury; Master Harold and the Boys – Nuffield Theatre, Southampton; 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (costume designs) – Theatre Royal, Stratford East.
Site-specific work includes two large-scale promenade productions for The Dukes Theatre, Lancaster – Grimm Tales and The Canterbury Tales. Both productions took place in the Williamson Park, each involving more than thirty costume designs and numerous settings within the woods.
Emily spent three years based in Seattle, where she had the opportunity to work with Seattle Dance Project and choreographer Ellie Sandstrom, designing costumes for Al Poco Tiempo at the Erickson Theatre.
Since returning home to Scotland in 2011, Emily has worked with many prominent Scottish Theatre companies including Dundee Rep, The Tron Theatre, Grid Iron and The Traverse Theatre. She designed the award-winning National Theatre of Scotland production, Adam, directed by Cora Bissett at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe, which subsequently toured to London and New York.
Emily also worked on the site-specific project Beats per Minute – a unique, immersive, audio-visual event set inside a large Geodesic Dome in Glasgow’s George Square, which ran as part of the European Athletics Championships Festival in August 2018.
Alongside her theatre work, Emily has worked as Resident Design Tutor on the RADA Summer Design School and the Edinburgh based Scenehouse Design Course.
Photo by Angus Foreman