Review

Curtain Call: A Year Backstage in London Theatre

curtain call

This is THE coffee table book to beat all coffee table books and an absolute must for all theatre lovers.

Photographer Matt Humphrey and actor/director John Schwab have created an exquisite insight into the world of backstage, captured throughout a year of exciting London theatre during 2015. 60 productions are featured from A Christmas Carol at the Noël Coward, Hamlet at the Barbican, Gypsy at the Savoy, Memphis the Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at Regent’s Park through to The Homecoming at Trafalgar Studios and Wonder.land at the National.

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The shots are breathtakingly beautiful, revealing the intimate moments from the wings, dressing rooms and rehearsal spaces. One of the images I love is Janie Dee on her phone backstage at Ah, Wilderness! to perform vocal exercises. Another is Harriet Walter with Sam Marks and Alex Hassell in the green room at the Noël Coward larking about on the sofa. They are all un-posed and simply capturing those unguarded moments.

It shows these actors or actresses from a different perspective – as normal people – applying their make up or doing a crossword between scenes. As an audience member it’s always an intriguing thought to know what is going on behind the scenes as it’s inaccessible to us sat in the auditorium and this book is your ticket into that spellbinding world.

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The photographs that really strike me are the shots from the wings. It’s that silent moment right before the magic happens and it’s capturing that stillness. There’s a wonderful image of Mark Rylance in Farinelli and the King at the Duke of York’s Theatre as he peers through a little hole to get a glimpse of the stage. It’s got to be said, if I HAD to pick a favourite, it’s undoubtedly Imelda taking her bow at the curtain call for Gypsy. Through the stage lit haze you can see a vast theatre full of standing, cheering people. Just dazzling.

Not only does the astounding photography offer insight to backstage but also there are quotes with cast members and interviews with key industry members such as Vicky Featherstone, Sally Greene and Jessica Ronane. It adds that extra dimension into the world of backstage.

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Curtain Call: A Year Backstage in London Theatre takes absolute pride of place in my home, where I can always see it, sit down and flick through and be reminded what a truly extraordinary industry theatre is. A most beautifully, visually stunning and gorgeous book, I urge everyone to go out and get it.

‘The stage management are amazing. I call them backstage ninjas. They wear black hoods. And backstage is actually like a ballet. It’s extraordinary how people just glide by each other.’

– Ron Cook (The Ruling Class)

Curtain Call: A Year Backstage In London Theatre is £45 and available at www.curtaincallonline.com

2 Comments

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    Reviews of a different kind | Theatre Bloggers
    May 19, 2016 at 11:44 am

    […] The Bardette & Page to Stage Reviews […]

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    Q&A: Matt Humphrey (Curtain Call) -
    May 20, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    […] gushing about the superbly delicious book – Curtain Call: A Year Backstage in London Theatre – we caught up with photographer Matt, who talked to us about creating it and his favourite […]

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