Theatre

Best new musical of 2012

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It's hugely exciting to be witnessing the birth of a very impressive new musical: VFTheatre's 1,000 Suns, An American Afterlife - many of the workshops and early rehearsals for which have been in my house. 

I also did the promotional photography for them, although they have been responsible for the final  publicity materials like the banner above. 

They are going to be performing the show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer. They have lined up an excellent centrally-located venue  on Northbridge from the 6th - 11th of August.

There's more info on the VF Theatre website, and on the Crowdfunder page they have set up to part finance the project - where there are some decent rewards if you are able to dip into your pocket. You can also follow developments on Twitter @1000SunsUK

 

 


Depth

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Autumn brings with it very ambitious plans by Eason Jnr for the next season of productions from  VFTheatre, beginning with Frank McGuinness's tough play about Lebanon hostages, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me.

I'm very pleased to get the call to provide photos. The shots above used a single bare tungsten light, aiming for a stark look. Photos by me; art direction and poster creation by Joe Oliver Eason.

I like working with actors. They mostly just 'get it' when you ask for a look. OK so do models, but with actors there's an emotional input that goes beyond surface appearance. As should good photos.


Gang wars

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The fateful moment when Romeo (right) intervenes in the fight between Tybalt and Mercutio

Hugely enjoyed the opening night of VFDrama's production of Romeo and Juliet at the Beacon Centre in Beaconsfield, Bucks - whose short run ends on Saturday.

An unquestionable highlight is the realism of the fight scenes. I say realism: I don't suppose many of us have any direct experience of sword fighting in the streets, but the energy expended by these young actors is phenomenal.

I know, having been there from day one, how much effort went into choreographing this action - essential, given how potentially dangerous it is. The swords they are using in the main fight sequences, by the way, are from the National Theatre's armoury. 

Anyway great fun to photograph too!  Nikon D3s with 70-200mm zoom at 1/125th, f4, ISO 6400, tweaked in Lightroom.


His 'n' hers, back at the farm

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Pigott's Farm, that is, with the VFDrama gang as they go into final rehearsals for their production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which opens on Thursday.

The main request was for 'family photos' - the Montagues (above), the Capulets (below) and the nobles, and separately our star-cross'd lovers.

I don't normally do wedding shots but that was what it most resembled, except that the producers wanted serious, even fierce faces rather than jolly ones. Stop smiling at the back!

Teeny bit of a challenge fitting them all onto my backdrop but it worked out ok. Lit by three strobes with only minimal softening. It's the harsh glare of publicity ... 

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Spring: the book

I am delighted to announce my first public photo book. It is an "as it happened" record of the initial production by the young VFDrama theatre company, the musical Spring Awakening. If you've been following this blog you'll already be familiar with that.

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We've had a proof copy which delighted all those who've seen it, and have signed off a final version with minor changes.

In more than 100 colour pages the book, called simply Spring Awakening: Photo Album, charts the course of the production from initial planning through various rehearsals to the final triumphant scene.  

It is available to order now from my website at a special introductory price - and with an unrepeatable special offer of one of the original promotional posters for the show, free, for the first few dozen orders. 

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Putting the book together was, let's say, an interesting process using the sometimes frustrating Booksmart software from Blurb. Having done it once I have a far better sense of how to do it again, and ultimately it was highly enjoyable. So there will be others. 


And they're off

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I’m delighted to have been asked to be the production photographer again for VFDrama, this time for their forthcoming version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

I got some initial shots on file from the first rehearsals this weekend.

The unlikely venue was Marlow Rowing Club, in a beautiful summery setting alongside the River Thames, hence the exercise equipment - though the way Joe and Greg were going at the sword-fighting practice (or bare metal pole fighting in this case) they were working up an appropriate sweat. This is clearly going to be a high-energy show.

 


Totally f-f-fantastic

A scene from the final moments in the dress rehearsal for VFDrama’s production of Spring Awakening: A new musical, which opened on Thursday.

Shooting a live stage show is always going to be tough given the nature of shifting stage lighting. Much of this was on 6400 (as in this case) or 12800 ISO, the D3s coming into its own along with that fabulous 70-200mm f2.8 zoom. I scrabbled about doing my bit.

This one was really on the edge because of the light falloff where they were standing: 200mm zoom at ISO 12800, f2.8 and 1/60th. I’ve used a little noise suppression. 

This is challenging work but I love doing it and if any other drama groups are in need of a photographer I’d be very happy to hear from you.

I’ve been closely involved with this project from the start because it was conceived by my actor/producer son, Joe (below). 

He and his very talented friends (and younger sister, Alice) have expended blood, sweat and tears on it over the past few months. 

I’m not going to wax on about young people today, save to say that if you give them a chance they can do fantastic things. This lot are almost all teenagers and they have come up with one of the most energetic, intelligent, emotional  amateur shows I’ve ever seen anywhere. I’m immensely proud of them. Also delighted to pick up any reflected glory! - but it’s been all their work, helped in the last few weeks by expert guidance from director Matt Dye. 


Get in

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The VF Drama gang are off to Sir William Ramsay’s performing arts centre for two days of rehearsals on their actual stage, with lights and props, ahead of the opening night of Spring Awakening on Thursday. Exciting. For me, there are more full-costume cast photos to be done later today.

Urgh, let’s hope their acting is better than their coffee making …


Get in

The VF Drama gang are off to Sir William Ramsay’s performing arts centre for two days of rehearsals on their actual stage, with lights and props, ahead of the opening night of Spring Awakening on Thursday. Exciting. For me, there are more full-costume cast photos to be done later today.

Urgh, let’s hope their acting is better than their coffee making …


Back to the farm

Off to Piggott’s again - or is it Pigott’s? I think it has two Gs really - to shoot more cast photos for VF Drama’s Spring Awakening, which opens next week.

Or at least that had been the plan. But they found the big rehearsal space otherwise occupied, without warning, so they were using the smaller barn which didn’t allow for both things to go on simultaneously. We postponed the fancy lights and backdrop stuff. Instead I shot some more rehearsal pictures. 


More Springy

Tricky sunlight

Back to Pigott’s for another Spring rehearsal yesterday, this time shooting in daylight in the afternoon - or until the light began to fail, that is. So it’s the same basic set-up, but with new challenges.

Firstly, the cast were moving around far more and using pretty much the whole floor space. This meant I had to be active too and work around them, but doing so as unobtrusively as possible so as not to disturb their concentration. I switched the D3s to Quiet shutter. And for the first time I used my new TC-20 III two times converter with the 70-200mm to get extra reach into what they were doing without literally joining them on stage. So the max aperture goes up to f5.6 - highly usable still especially with the high ISO capability of the D3s and all that Vibration Reduction going on. It performed brilliantly, retaining fast accurate autofocus - the only downside being the (even more) weight. 

Secondly, the light was slanting into the big space from above at an angle. Sometimes I could work the way this was bouncing off the floorboards to give a gorgeous fill light - but in other shots it would just be a royal pain, blowing out highlights or setting the background alight. 


Events

This photo gives a sense of their workspace

I had a great time yesterday photographing the kids rehearsing for their musical, Spring Awakening, which they are performing at Easter. They being my son, Joe, who came up with the idea a few months back and has assembled a fabulous cast and crew including his sister, Alice, and many friends from the Swan youth theatre, former school, etc. 

Anyway they are all, thanks to the parents of one of his friends, working out at Pigott’s Farm at North Dean a few miles from where we live. It has a fabulous big old barn-sized space used in the past for music and dance occasions - I’m not sure of the exact history, although I do know the sculptor Eric Gill owned the place in the early part of the 20th century. 

So: photographically it’s a bit of a challenge. It was an evening rehearsal, under big (sodium?) lights which were pretty good although dimmer where the band were sitting (they have a live band). I was using the D3s and 70-200mm f2.8 typically at 6400 ISO, and something like 1/40th at f8 and with the white balance left on Auto.

So it was an evening of ‘chasing the moment’ - trying to capture those expressions and subtle interchanges between cast members that make these things fun to do, without making them look like complete dorks because they are singing. Really enjoyed it.