Hello and welcome to the second in a remarkably regular series of blogs reflecting on my (predominantly) photography-based exploits...
Following a brief and relatively unsuccessful foray back into the world of crawling-round-in-bushes macro wildlife photography last weekend, I once again headed off into the exciting (and unpredictable) realm of all things theatrical. I was contacted by Spark Arts (www.thesparkarts.co.uk) early last week to ask whether I would be available to photograph the launch and opening shows of their and Nottinghamshire County Council's production of A Boy and a Bear in a Boat at Mansfield Library (www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/popuptheatre/boybearboat). Whilst I had some initial reservations (much as I think libraries are great I've rarely felt that they'd make excellent photo locations!) it seemed like a great opportunity to be involved in an exciting East Midlands based theatre project.
Having confirmed all the necessary info and read through the supplied brief (a brief, how good's that?!) I packed up the required kit, selected some in-journey music (I went all Emo - Foxing and American Football) and printed off sketchy Google directions (as I suffer with a technophobe luddite/adventurer streak that stops me investing in a sat-nav...) and headed North to Mansfield. Upon arrival in said Nottinghamshire market town (which apparently boasts a tree planted to commemorate the historical centre of Sherwood Forest - yes "a tree planted to commemorate a forest" - slightly odd) I managed to limit my circumnavigation to a single pass (in the absence of a sat-nav, I like to inform myself in a smug cod-american accent that "you have now reached your destination"). I was greeted at the library by some very friendly members of the team organising the event and shown round the performance space and the area for after-show gatherings. My fears of poorly-lit awkward settings were immediately allayed, as it transpired that Mansfield library is really rather lovely and counts, as one of it's many features, a fully functioning performance space; within which I loitered for a while trying to pick the best spot whilst (hopefully) staying out of people's way!
Position selected, I got myself ready for the first performance. I'd heard very good things about Spark Arts as they are involved with other venues around Leicester that I've worked in, but I didn't really know what to expect from the show (i'm a little out of the 5-9yr old target audience range...) but I can honestly say that I was hugely impressed. The staging is very cleverly put together, particularly as the set will need to be flexible enough to be performed in a variety of spaces in libraries throughout the East Midlands before heading off for a run at the Edinburgh Festival. The performances from the two actors, Bradley Foster and Ivan Stott were superb, keeping the audience enthralled throughout (no insignificant feat with a really mixed aged range group). There were some excellent set pieces, I was particularly taken with the choreographed storm sections and the use of music throughout (composed by Ivan Stott) set a wonderful tone, underpinning the performance and keeping everything flowing. I managed to take some photos too(!) the play was a real joy to photograph, with plenty of movement throughout and a real connection between the two actors - hopefully this comes across in the images I've managed to capture (all performance photos are on the "Events" page of my website).
In addition to the performance there were refreshments, and activities for the younger members of the audience, along with an opportunity to meet the Boy and the Bear after the show. It was great to see such young theatregoers really engaging with the story, and in such thrall to the characters who only minutes before had braved the high seas on an incredible adventure! I got some photos of the two after-show events (I only had a brief "back in Nam" wedding photography related flashback around some ceremonial cake cutting!), these will be shared via Nottinghamshire County Council for permission reasons.
In all, it was a pleasure to be involved in the event and huge congratulations to everyone involved in putting it together. If you get a chance to see the show I can't recommend it highly enough, the ingenuity of the source novel and the action-packed pace of the performance - would be a great introduction to theatre for kids.
That's probably enough words for now...hopefully I'll have something else to write about next Sunday.