Already closed | 1h 15m | Brooklyn

The Emperor

From 26 member  reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Masterful, Thought-provoking, Intelligent

About the show

This adaptation of Ryszard Kapuściński‘s celebrated and controversial 1978 book of the same title is a parable about power set at the downfall of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. More…

Actress Kathryn Hunter shapeshifts, portraying ten male servants of Haile Selassie, among them his pillow-bearer, purse-bearer and dog-urine wiper, creating complex human portraits. Hunter is joined by Ethiopian musician Temesgen Zeleke.

Kapuściński slyly used "The Emperor" to illuminate corruption and political power in his native Poland. This adaptation resonates with the world’s growing and disturbing fascination with despotism.

Member Reviews (26)


Great acting, Absorbing, Masterful, Thought-provoking, Intelligent
Avg Score

Banal, Fluffy, Overrated, Slow

See it if If you want to see Kathryn Hunter in many roles.

Don't see it if Not really good, slow. If you want a show of imitation.

Relevant, Masterful, Funny, Moving, Tragic

See it if Faults of monarchical power, but also the love of a bygone way of life. Virtuosic solo performance with wonderful musical accompaniment.

Don't see it if You don’t enjoy non-fiction solo shows. You don’t like ethnic music.

Slow, Anecdotal, Non-dramatic, Unvarying, Fragmented

See it if you would like to experience one of the world's great actors, even in inferior fare.

Don't see it if you are one of those people for whom lots of anecdote, even with music & lighting effects, does not quite equal drama.

Also Kathryn Hunter is one of the world’s great actors. But “The Emperor,” ... Read more Read less

Great acting, Quirky, Ambitious, Disappointing, Slow

See it if you enjoy the performance of Kathryn Hunter, a treasure

Don't see it if you like theater that has accompanying drama. This was like an interview with a dozen participants

Banal, Boring, One note

See it if For some reason you would like to learn something of the end of the regime of Haile Selassie through the acting of Katherine Hunter.

Don't see it if You're not anxious to see her play a bunch of characters who all seem the same. Fortunately there are loud noises at times to wake you up.

Great acting, Intelligent, Quirky, Clever, Informative

See it if you would enjoy a single actress portraying multiple male roles that illuminate a period of history, probably one you don't know much about.

Don't see it if you don't like plays based on true events and/or you don't like shows that are (mostly) a single actor.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Masterful

See it if essentially a one woman show, where she portrays 11 characters in Ethiopia after the fall of Haile Salasie. Great Acting

Don't see it if Have no interest in subject matter, want elaborate staging, don't like one person shows.

Magnificent acting, Multifaceted, Ethiopian music, Historical, Satirical

See it if You love exquisite acting (10 male parts played by tiny Kathryn Hunter, w/ out-sized skill) and adore ethnic music and gorgeous tenor songs.

Don't see it if You object to parts awarded for acting merit, as opposed to race or sex. Or if you can't understand satire and "deeper" meanings on power.

Also After the performance I spoke with a young Ethiopian woman who attende... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Intense

See it if You want to see a tour de force of acting by the british kathryn hunter playing 9 different servants to haile selassie.

Don't see it if You dont like one person shows and are looking for something light and entertaining.

Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if Acting and writing are enough, even when the story itself creates difficulties- history makes for a difficult translation to the stage.

Don't see it if History and it’s artistic interpretation through music, word & character - aren’t enough.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Riveting, Intense

See it if Virtuoso acting from Kathryn Hunter (I feel lucky to have seen her in this show) is reason enough

Don't see it if You prefer plays with a conventional plot structure or don't like it when one actor plays all the characters

Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if Tour de force performance by the remarkable Kathryn Hunter, haunting music of Temesgen Zeleke. Neglected subject of recent Ethiopian history

Don't see it if If a one man show does not appeal, or little interest in this subject and any sensitivity to whites portraying black characters with humor.

Epic, Great acting, Great writing, Profound, Thought-provoking

See it if you like theater that will make you think and you appreciate great acting.

Don't see it if you don't appreciate small stagings and expect to be entertained rather than put outside your comfort zoene.

Also I was in my teens when I first lay my hands on a copy of Ryszard Kapuś... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Disappointing, Fluffy

See it if you want one of Kathryn Hunter's typical tour-de-force performances, or will enjoy a satire skewering power.

Don't see it if you're hoping for something that speaks directly to our political moment. The production seems to want to, but isn't particularly effective.

Banal, Great acting, Indulgent, Slow, Disappointing

See it if You love Kathryn Hunter or are curious about Haile Selassie's reign.

Don't see it if You aren't already interested in the cast or subject matter.

Absorbing, Clever, Riveting, Profound, Masterful

See it if You enjoy brilliant acting and a clever script. Great physicality and odd but endearing character!

Don't see it if You don't like one woman shows.

Banal, Cliched, Borderline blackface, Colonialist whitewashing

See it if you want to see a European woman portray 10 Ethiopian characters in a story that credits white people for toppling a corrupt African regime.

Don't see it if Questions of whether this is appropriate aside, it's also a dreadful piece of writing, poorly staged, with a performance that is dull.

Entertaining, Great acting, Edgy, Profound, Thought-provoking

See it if You want a fine display of acting

Don't see it if You’re looking for light theatre


See it if You recognize this play is not about Ethiopia or Haile Selassie. One actress plays almost all parts.

Don't see it if You are looking to learn something about Ethiopia.

During previews
Inventive, Masterful performance, Wonderful musical accompaniment

See it if Masterclass in acting by the always wonderful Kathryn Hunter. Great musical counterpoint by Ethiopian krar player Temesgen Zeleke.

Don't see it if No sets, cast of one with a musician playing an unfamiliar instrument, sole actor playing multiple roles addressing audience, no real plot.

Also The final years of Haile Selassie as ruler of Ethiopia as told by his ... Read more Read less

During previews
Clever, Masterful, Intelligent, Relevant, Intense

See it if Superbly acted...BUT...I was seated in the almost last row (L) and missed much dialogue.

Don't see it if You are uninterested in watching one actor portray many roles.

During previews
Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Intelligent, Riveting

See it if you love the craft of acting. Kathryn Hunter is a marvel as she is in everything she has ever done). The music is compelling as well

Don't see it if a solo performance, no matter how brilliant, will not hold your attention. This is about Kathryn Hunter and her mesmerizing performance

During previews
Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Informative, Surprising

See it if you'd hate to miss what may be the bravura performance of this season via a theatrical portrait of Haile Selassie as told by his servants.

Don't see it if you refuse to believe a woman can accurately play a man onstage even as Kathryn Hunter does it over and over again before your very eyes.

During previews
Great acting, Masterful, Must see, Riveting, Absorbing

See it if You want to experience a masterful performance of journalistic type storytelling recreating the final years of a dictator. Bravo to an

Don't see it if You dislike storytelling and one actor assuming many and all characters.

Also exceptional actress and skilled musician/singer. Absorbing and well wo... Read more Read less

During previews
Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Thought-provoking

See it if See this this show if you enjoy unique theatrical pieces. Interesting subject matter and masterful performance by Kathryn Hunter.

Don't see it if May be too unique for some theatre goers.

September 16th, 2018
"Journalistic virtues are not necessarily theatrical ones. What’s compelling in newsprint, or for that matter in life, does not always scintillate when turned into a play. That is but one of the problems...It is informative and clever, and features a notable performance by that shape-shifter Kath...
read more
September 21st, 2018
"In Colin Teevan’s 75-minute stage adaptation, Hunter plays a double-handful of characters from 'The Emperor,' whizzing through gorgeous comic sketches...turning each episode into something funny and poignant and sweet...This is a Hunter showcase through and through...The play does not tell us mu...
read more
September 16th, 2018
"Part Brechtian commentary and part clown show, part investigation of the last days of a real regime and part playful, piercing allegory. It’s a concentrated, compelling piece of theater with a light touch...Hunter sketches each player in Selassie’s political theater with sly wit and technical fi...
read more
September 16th, 2018
"It has become a cliché to describe Hunter’s basic acting attribute as shape-shifting, but since clichés can usually be traced to inconvertible truths, shape-shifting is a description that gets to the core of any number of her mesmerizing performances...In little more than an hour Hunter, Zeleke,...
read more

Related content