What went down in 2015 Pt 1: Theatre

January 01, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Hello again!

We have officially made it to 2016! I thought this would be an opportune time to cast a casual over-the-shoulder glance back at 2015 and collect some of the high points like metaphorical butterflies in this 'ere digital jam jar (this is admittedly for my benefit as much as anything, as so much awesome has happened I think even a haphazard record will be nice to have).

The intention is for this to be something of a self-indulgent hazy montage of happenings, approximately grouped into appropriate sections. Some of these goings on will be photography based/linked, some will just be stuff that's happened on a cultural kind of leaning...some may tick both/more boxes (ooh, I hear you say).

Lets kick this thing of with the cultural area that's seen the most dramatic (sorry) upswing in activity in 2015, that being theatre. I've always had an interest in theatre, and have thought of it as a hugely important art form that has endless potential to transport audiences to incredible places. In the last few years my involvement with theatre and performing arts had really taken a back seat, not for any conscious reason, just out of habit; this changed significantly in 2015 when I was fortunate enough to get involved with the 14/48 theatre festival. Through photographing 14/48 festivals in Leicester, Wolverhampton and London, I've met more talented, empassioned and downright lovely people than you could shake even the biggest stick at; I've taken photographs that I'm incredibly proud of as well as learning a huge amount about performance photography, and been taken so far out of my usual comfort zone that I had to buy a sat-nav to find my way back (turns out comfort zones are overrated anyway). Along with the photography side of things, I've also witnessed the creation of some of the funniest, most affecting, honest and creative pieces of theatre you could hope for, all of which was only achievable because of the dedication, commitment and occasional lunacy of those involved. 14/48 I salute you, you've pretty much changed my life.

As a direct result of my inlvolvement with 14/48, and the development of my photography skill set into Matt Cawrey: Stealth Performance Photographer™ I've had the opportunity to work with other performance projects, including Leicester's Story City Festival, which presented a range of performance pieces in venues around the city. The quality of all the work on show was stupidly high, if I had to pick an overall highlight it would have to Scufflebox Theatre's Hamlet Cafe, which was an inventive, intense and immersive re-telling with amazing performances from the full cast. Hamlet was portrayed with an wonderfully human volatility by Edward Spence, who we'll come back to shortly... Other projects have included Spark Arts splendid A Boy and a Bear in a Boat; Priya Mistry's sharing of her Musical Mental Health Cabaret, a piece I very much look forward to seeing more of in 2016; and Chorus Theatre's fast-paced and joyful potted re-telling of Gulliver's Travels.

Gulliver's TravelsGulliver's TravelsDress Rehearsal of Chorus Theatre's production of Gulliver's Travels, Fearon Hall, Loughborough.

As mentioned earlier, some of my involvement with theatre has led to me doing more than just photography...highlighting the dangers of casual email exchanges, and not reading things fully (in this case the bit saying "acting experience preferred"!), I inadvertently volunteered as a rehearsal assistant for the Theatre Anonymous version of Up n Under. As this project involves the cast rehearsing independently from each other, assistants are needed to read in for the other parts, so when I rolled up all enthusiastic to take some photos and ended up reading through scenes I was a bit taken aback! I knew most of the actors already so that wasn't too odd, however reading in with the aforementioned Edward Spence was a jolly surreal experience!! In spite of my "assistance" the whole project came to stunning conclusion, producing a genuine one-off piece of theatre that wowed the assembled audience.

Performance NightPerformance NightTeam Photo

Along with some of the Story City shows, I've seen some fantastic theatre as a paying punter. The three shows I've managed to catch at The Curve were outstanding, Richard III (unflinchingly confrontational and yet impressively nuanced, and wonderfully staged); Sister Act (tremendous heart warming fun with amazing performances from a local "amateur" group); A Streetcar Named Desire (amazing performances, almost unbearable intensity, so good I saw it twice!), it would be an understatement to say that I'm excited to see more work at this splendid theatre. I was invited down to Eastleigh to photograph the final dress rehearsal for The Point Youth Theatre's production of Beauty and the Beast, this was a visually stunning piece of work, performed by a passionate cast of talented young actors (although be warned, if you're photographing youth theatre you'll need your two Weetabix as they don't half shift!!). The ACT Night at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton that I managed to get to showcased some really interesting work in progress theatre, hopefully I can get to more of these in 2016 as it'll be great to see how these and other pieces develop through this invaluable platform. The ACT Showcase in December gave me the chance to catch work by friends I've made through 14/48 including the beyond words brilliance of Kirsty Mealing's "Cat Got My Tongue, I Hope It Comes Back" and Matt Beames fascinatingly engaging "Stone".

The ACT CollectionThe ACT Collection8th December 2015
The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton
Beauty and The Beast, December 2015Beauty and The Beast, December 2015Point Youth Theatre @ The Point Theatre, Eastleigh
Set and Costume Design by Carl Davies Designs

There's been more awesome stuff, but for fear of this becoming a list of "everything what I did in my spare time" I'll wind it up here. If you've read all of this, fair play to you, there will be a test and prizes in due course!

You'll be super pleased to hear that I'm going to write blogs on 2015's music and dance goings on...but I'll leave it a couple of days before posting those.

Any comments gratefully received (they would be, honest!) If you're planning on making amazing stuff in 2016 then I applaud you, if you're not; why not?!

Cheers, Matt


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