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EIF: Ubu and the Truth Commission

August 29, 2014

As my last official shoot for EIF has now ended, I can't help but feel a sense of completion. Today marks my 100th professional theatre photoshoot. And with my move to Bristol on the near horizon, all sorts of emotions are at play today! 

 

I can't think of a better way to end this amazing experience than with a company that takes theatre to the edge with innovative storytelling - incidentally, the same company also inspired my own Fringe production of Pinocchio two years ago: Handspring. The atmosphere, a calm after the storm compared to yesterday's opera dressrun, definitely sent shivers down my spine, as we took in the regal auditorium of the Royal Lyceum Theatre, and the lifeless wooden puppets set on stage. 

 

This magnificent clockwork vulture guarded one of the downstage corners. At the start and end of the show, I grabbed a few shots with this moon-like light. 

I had seen a few of the original photographs from the 1980s production (as far as I am aware, today is the first time in over thirty years that Handspring have performed this piece, with the original puppets and some of the old cast). So I was conscious of getting images that recaptured that mood, and the timeless magic of the puppets. For this reason, some images like the one below worked particularly well in black and white, with simple composition and strong dynamic lighting. 

 I never take digital images in black and white, and only ever convert them to this later in post-processing. Shooting at ISO 1600 most of the image, I think the images lend themselves better to monochrome or muted colours, like below. The expressions (on the actors and puppets) and the lighting was superb to capture. 

This crocodile was a crowd favourite - perfectly controlled and hissingly voiced by Mongi Mthombeni, with a canvas bag as a body which ingeniously stores everything that it has eaten (see top shot of it catching an orange). 

What was really striking (and maybe made more so in light of Handspring's West End success with Warhorse) was not how well each piece was manipulated, but how the puppeteers responded to their puppets , almost as if they were carers helping less able people with their day-to-day tasks. So wherever possible, I tried to show capture only the puppet but also the expressions of the puppeteers, and particularly any moment where the puppeteer looked directly at their puppet. Here Gabriel Marchand seems to wait for his puppet to give the verdict on her cooking. His eyes watching her face make this shot for me. 

In this moment, it was easy to forget that the puppeteers were manipulating the puppet - as above, they seemed instead to be helping this frail puppet set up his store front. 

This was a great fun show to end on. I realise I skip over many of the darker aspects of this show, but from a photographer's stance the child in me didn't want it to end - and when it did, and the houselights raised with a titter of applause, I definitely felt a cloud of a hundred weird and wonderful festival memories sweep through the room. 

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