Simon Annand: My father was a teacher with five kids, so he didn’t have very much money. We went away on holiday abroad for the first and only time. He was proud of that and we were thrilled. I saw a man with a camera and I thought it’d be great if we had a photograph of us at that moment. So I asked him to do that and marked the moment.
I was working on the bar at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. I’m not a photographer. There was a fantastic production going on in the theatre of ‘Charley’s Aunt’ with Griff Rhyss Jones. I was curious about it so I asked Griff if I could photograph him – because he seemed to be the centre of this success. He was very kind and let me do some photographs of him just about to go on stage and then in the dressing room. I found a very different kind of energy in the dressing room than was apparent in the actual performance. In the performance he’s very ebullient, in the dressing room there was a more introverted, maybe a little melancholic energy, which was interesting.
The actors are men and women first, for me. They happen to be actors. They may happen to be famous as well. I choose all the people myself. Every person in the collection is there for a reason to try and reflect what’s going on in the English theatre, from the fringe to the West End and the different kinds of plays. This is a project that’s being going on for 28 years, I think now.
‘Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, house and company. This is your half hour call. Thirty minutes all beginners. Your half hour call. Thank you.’
‘The Half’ is a period of time, roughly half an hour. Before the actors go on stage, you get counted down by the stage door - the company manager - towards that moment where once again that night you have to go on and face a thousand strangers. It’s different every day and they bring in with them what they’ve been thinking and feeling during that day. They either use that for the character or they contain it. That is an amazingly photogenic period of time to be with an actor, I think.
‘This is your quarter hour call. Fifteen minutes until Act I begins. Your quarter hour call. Thank you.’
I’m trying to show the actors as workers who have a serious job to do and they need a lot of discipline to do it. I’m not particularly interested in the ephemera of the rooms. It’s really what’s in their head – I’m interested in their relationship to themselves, not their relationship to the camera.
‘Can you just do one for me … I’ve got Andrew [Andrew Scott] in the foreground – please look at Andrew and not move too much – and Paul [Paul Jesson] in the background. It’s just amazing – really, really simple.’
‘Ladies and gentlemen … ‘Cock’ beginners call. Beginners stand by please. Call for Mr Scott and Mr Whishaw. Thank you.’
Every person in the collection is there for a reason, to try and reflect what’s going on in the English theatre, from the fringe to the West End and the different kinds of plays, the different generations and the different styles of actor. They all make up a very complex and very profound theatrical culture.