Friday, 24 February 2012

Heads Up!

What I had anticipated (hoped) to see after my break from rehearsals last week was a discernible difference.  What I expected to see was an assertive cast that had grown in confidence, the directors had instructed "books down" a week or so ago and so I wanted to see "heads up"; and with a minor exception that is what I found. The cast were strong, confident, enjoying their roles and delivering with only minor recurrence to the prompt.

f4.0, 1/100th sec, ISO 12800 70-200mm @ 70mm
I wound the speed up to try and compensate for the lack of lights, the director was using the hall lights to cue action and I thought I would need additional speed, this has led to a softness which is unfortunate in terms of the effect I wanted to create. Karen and Ken kicking things off - looking skywards, the antithesis of looking for comfort in a script. It may be that the part calls for them to look up, but it told me that they were confident (Ken later said it the apparent confidence is just the normal panic at this stage, nevertheless it worked to instill confidence - and that is central to what an audience needs). I later wound the speed down and that has improved the quality of the photographs.

f4.0, 1/100 sec, ISO 10,000, 200mm
ditto as before ISO 9000, 105mm
Trying to capture moments, both in terms of the relationships between the players and in terms of the psychological nature of the performers and how, as I say above, they project confidence to an audience. I purposely sat in positions in the hall that would represent a member of the audience when photographing the actors; to get that perspective from that viewpoint - albeit from different positions in the hall - left right, central etc. Karen - looking upwards as she "looks down her nose" at something that Ken is saying. Ken in exuberant pose and the two of them in mid conversation.
ditto as before, ISO 6400, 70mm

f2.8, 1/100th sec, ISO 5600, 70mm
f2.8, 1/100th sec, ISO 6400, 80mm
I should like to contrast these growing confidences with the two directors who still feel the need to "hold onto" their scripts. I know this feeling very well, it is similar to leaving your script when you are an actor; but for the director the original vision comes from the page, the written words contrive to bring the play alive and holding on to the original reference "anchors" your vision to that point of view. Needless to say that what was originally envisioned doesn't turn up on stage precisely as you originally imagined, so there is a need to constantly refer to the "reference". I think these scripts will go soon, the confidence of the actors will allow the twin directors to "let go". I think they will enjoy it even more when they do so.
f2.8, 1/100th sec, ISO 5600, 70mm

f2.8, 1/100th sec, ISO 4500, 200mm
 Moving back to the stage, another key element of any production is the entrance. Again, confidence in the entrance is another vital part of convincing the audience to suspend belief, which is what this game is all about - illusion. The entrance, left, has had a lot of work on it done by Martin and Ken to make it secure and safe. As I've mentioned before actors who use entrances that include doors need to feel confidence (there's that word again) that it will open freely and will shut when required reliably. The sign of the cross has no specific meaning in the photograph, but I thought it interesting as a token some may see of faith! I also noticed a lot of shadow play as players approaching the door readying for entrance could be easily discerned.

f2.8, 1/60th sec, ISO 6400, 200mm

f2.8, 1/100th sec, ISO 4500, 200mm
f2.8, 1/100th sec, ISO 4000, 100mm
Three different entrances, all of whom are "in the role" as they enter.

f2.8 1/100th sec, ISO 2500, 200mm
f2.8, 1/100th sec, ISO 5000, 200mm
Props are important to any production, Alex is carrying her handbag and wearing "those" shoes, they help the player to feel the character and I decided to portray their role on stage with these photographs:

f2.8, 1/100th sec, ISO 5000, 200mm

f2.8, 1/80th sec, ISO 6400, 160mm
f2.8, 1/50th sec, ISO 6400, 160mm
Returning to previous attempts at depict various elements of the development and techniques of the production. I again attempted the cut edit with focus shots that I had previously failed at. Here are two shots where I have tried to depict a conversation between Jeff and Ken and using focus as the arbiter between the two. I think if I had been further away it would have helped to compress the perspective and emphasise this, or had an even more expensive lens. I think it almost works. The shot below contrast with earlier shots where I have attempted to use focus as a metaphor. Previously the players on stage were out of focus, now that they have moved on tremendously the switch can be made. Clarity on the stage contrasting with that on the floor - although it wouldn't be fair to suggest that the floor doesn't know what it is doing!

f2.0, 1/60th sec, ISO 2000, 23mm

f2.8, 1/100th sec, ISO 5000, 70mm
f4.0, 1/60th sec, ISO 2000, 70mm
As I have mentioned before there is usually a lot of fun at these rehearsals and humour always helps to break tension as the group work hard to develop a production. Alex and Sharon in a short "disco" scene and the "audience" reacting to  the action on stage (not, I hasten to add Alex's dancing!).

f2.0, 1/60th sec, ISO 1250, 23mm
And lastly a couple (in fact one ) shots people watching: Jean and Pat in conversation over the tea break. I'm not sure whether the crop was needed, so I included both.

Alongside the cast and crew growing with confidence, I am starting to feel a naturalness in the technical side of these shots. I'm starting to feel some confidence in how I approach what I have envisaged for this series. I will continue to attend these rehearsals, but the big test will be to generate enough "stock" during the production, which lasts for three nights - one of which I am away, to complete my second assignment. It's been fun so far, but when I have to incorporate, dressing room, make-up, technical set-up, the public as well as the actual production it will seem a little more frenetic I imagine!


  1. Acute observation. What's it like observing rather than directing?


  2. Well, I'm certainly impressed by the way the whole team is performing; the cast is getting to grips with the script and the play is really looking "together". The twin directors have an assured view, which is very important. I'm really excited by the way this is coming together. As for observing rather than directing; the answer is that I wanted to "jump in" during the first few rehearsals and "correct" what I thought were errors, but I resisted on the whole and I am glad to say that my concerns have largely been unwarranted. It is their show, if anyone else moves them off-course then it won't be. So, I'll be very happy to see this show succeed and congratulate them all on a fine production.