Curtain Call: A Year Backstage in London Theatre:
By Matt Humphrey and John Schwab
Photography by Matt Humphrey
Forward by David Suchet CBE
As a Londoner, it’s easy to forget how fortunate I am to have access to some of the best theatre in the world. Luckily, I was reminded of this and how many wonderful shows I have with the arrival of ‘Curtain Call – A Year Backstage In London’.
This photographic book by photographer Matt Humphrey and Actor/Director John Schwab is a fascinating insight into the theatre and it’s behind the scenes world. From the onset it is clear that Both Humphrey and Schwab have an extensive knowledge and passion for theatre and from working for many years both on and off the stage, bringing to the book their own unique insight and understanding. The pair were given unprecedented access to over 50 productions in theatres across London over the past year, which happens to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Olivier Awards, to take photographs and interview actors and directors, many of them from the most successful and prestigious shows, including: American Buffalo at the Wyndham’s Theatre starring John Goodman, Damien Lewis and Tom Sturridge, Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre starring Benedict Cumberbatch and The Audience starring Kristen Scott Thomas. Plus highly acclaimed musicals including Kinky Boots, Urinetown, Guys and Dolls and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to name but a few.
The photography is a mixture of reportage and portraiture and is beautifully shot with great candour; it gives the reader an insight and a sense of intimacy with the world in which the actors inhabit away from the scrutiny of the public eye. It explores the camaraderie of backstage life between the actors and crew, the nerves and the hours of preparation that they jointly experience, in a very visual form. In the forward the Actor David Suchet CBE writes, ’The backstage area in a theatre is a secret place, almost a hallowed place.’
Along with the portraits and reportage are some extraordinary shots of the stage and set, reminding us of the remarkably talented designers that the London theatre has at its disposal. Each show is documented with a series of photos and interesting interviews with actors, directors and casting directors.
There are some candid and insightful quotes:
You have to be more truthful in this space. You can’t lie. You have to be more connected.
Alex Hassel (Henry V) in the RSC’s production at the Barbican.
Steve Rushton (Will) in The Art’s Theatre’s production of American Idiot said:
They say when the band started out, they were like, “Should we have a green day?”- where they would smoke weed all day. So that’s what it means.
Well, I didn’t know that either, did you?
Curtain Call is a book to enjoy, to flick through and to inform, to evoke. Ultimately this is an aide-memoire for theatre lovers, be they observers, audiences, or professionals, and if you have been lucky enough to see some of these shows. It definitely deserves a place in anyone’s home and not just a coffee table.