Book review: The Half – Simon Annand

The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand

Just a quickie for this book as The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand was released in 2008. But with an imminent new exhibition of these photos and a bargainous copy of the book popping up on Ebay, I thought I’d take the plunge.

And I’m glad I did as it is a proper work of art in its own right. Annand has been photographing actors for over 25 years and as such, has a veritable treasure trove of shots to share with us, resulting from the trusting relationships he has built up with so many, from the new kids on the block to veritable dames.

His trick here is to catch them at ‘the half’, the call that actors have a half hour until curtain call and that preparations to go on stage move into another gear. And naturally, there’s such variation from dressing room to dressing room but also such commonality, even shared across the decades.

From Andrea Riseborough having a cheeky fag on a balcony at the Royal Court to Joan Plowright reading fan mail to Jenny Jules doing a crossword. James Dreyfus fixing his chaps to Ralph Fiennes having a shave to David Oyelowo adjusting his Shakespearean crown – delights abound on every page.

And with Annand’s work travelling over so many years, The Half also works brilliantly as a chronicle of productions past, so many of which I wish I’d been able to see.

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