Thursday, 24 April 2014

AN EMPTY HOUSE by Maeve Berry

AN EMPTY HOUSE by Maeve Berry

When Maeve first said that she would like to photograph me on stage, I imagined the shot quite differently to the way it turned out. I immediately thought of the Theatre Royal in Brighton where my daughter had already performed and my nephew had produced a play. I thought of the beautifully rich red velvet curtain and me in front, dressed in my white tuxedo, in the spotlight. However, when we first went to the theatre for our first shoot, I was surprised to see the curtain pulled back and the stage completely empty and open. This potentially gave a much greater depth to the images by way of both distance and meaning. The first shoot ended up being a trial run in that, by the end of the time allotted to us, we had a much better idea of what we were going for. The two shots that worked were the one with me dressed and sitting in a chair looking out to the audience and the one of me naked dragging a ball and chain represented by a balloon and a feather boa respectively. 

The team at the the Theatre were very accommodating and supportive and were more than happy to allow us to return for a second shoot on 21st July 2014. This time, we knew exactly what we wanted and started with the feather boa and balloon. Maeve had found a purple boa and this colour looked tremendous under the lights. The idea was a playful take on the burden of my disease. Then, halfway through the shoot when the house lights came on, we saw how beautiful the auditorium looked from the stage, a view the audience never sees. We both loved the silhouette of me in the spotlight on the stage and wondered what it might look like from behind with the gorgeously fiery red and gold of the lights on the balconies as the back drop. What I couldn't see but Maeve could was the tinge of gold light on my head and arms and the weird distortion of the shape of my body in the shadow. 

And it is so personal to me. I always wanted to be an actor - l do not regard my photographs as a performance because, even with the more theatrical poses, they are all the real me; I am not playing a part. I don't act on the stage any more and I don't think I could but of course I make my films. That sounds sad but it isn't. I had my day in the sun and enjoyed it hugely. I played some wonderful characters not least those in my two one-man plays - Harry in "Harry's Christmas" by Steven Berkoff and the boy in "These Childish Things" by Raymond Cousse. 

So this image means a great deal to me even though I was sorely tempted to go for one of the Boa and Balloon shot all of which would have had no contest in any other circumstances. It was important to me that Maeve agreed with my choice which she did although I reckon she would have chosen the Boa and Balloon if it was solely down to her. 

And what of the darling Maeve? A lovely warm and jolly person. A photographer with a clever, artistic and unusual eye. And a friend for life. Sod the bloody photographs - this is why the project has given me so much pleasure; I have met so many beautiful people like Maeve who, incidentally, was introduced to me by another special person, Joanna Burejza. (Sigh) oh yes, life is good. Very good indeed. 

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