I recently had the pleasure of photographing the dress rehearsal of the KiDS pantomime – Once Upon A Time. KiDS, short for ‘Killigrew Drama Society’. An amateur group that has been putting on various events to help raise money for Killigrew Primary School in St Albans, England. Since 1978 the KiDS’ cast and crew of parents, ex-parents, teachers and former pupils have put on annual pantomimes at the school. This year however they went big – REALLY BIG! They managed to reserve two dates for three performances at a proper grown up theatre – the Abbey Theatre, St Albans, England.
My wife Nina was part of the cast (playing Captain ‘Jane’ Hook) and it would be her first ever appearance in a panto and on stage! So this was a great opportunity to capture the behind the scenes action, the full dress rehearsal, run through and to photograph my wife as the scary Captain ‘Jane’ Hook in full panto regalia.
The dress rehearsal was at the actual theatre on a late Thursday evening with no public access. To have un-restricted access and no public getting in the way was a fantastic bonus allowing me to get the pictures and angles I really wanted to capture.
The first set of pictures I took was in the green room. This is an area behind the stage where the cast got ready and underwent a full panto makeup makeover transformation. I was lucky enough to capture some great intimate candid shots. I kept out of the way and tried to blend in as much as I could as I didn’t want the cast to be distracted by me pointing cameras at them. I wasn’t after staged shots, posed, directed or smile for the camera images. I wanted to focus on and capture an ‘in the moment’ picture, so I worked the room looking for the best angles and tried to capture the excitement and atmosphere of the rehearsal.
The rest of the evening I spent out in the seating area about eight rows back from the front of the stage so I could get some great angles of the performers. The backdrops and scenery were great and surprisingly the lighting was a lot better than I had anticipated. I was expecting low lighting scenarios and tricky dark hi ISO images. The cast were evenly lit and for the most part I could keep my ISO to a reasonable level. I didn’t really have an issue where one side of the stage was much brighter than the other. The background was darker than the foreground which made the performers really stand out.
I managed to capture some great acting shots and facial expressions befitting a great traditional pantomime!
(Readers audience: Oh no you didn’t) – (Photographer, that’s me: Oh yes I did!).
My camera lens hood comes off to EVERYONE that took part in the panto. The rehearsals started back last October, once a week, held in classrooms and Scout huts. Then the pace really picked up over the festive season, rehearsing almost every night between Christmas, New Year and the actual first performance on the evening of the 6th of January.
When I arrived the night before the first performance I was blown away by everyone’s enthusiasm and the sheer numbers involved. There was the cast, the director, the band, the makeup artists, the lighting, sound and stage crew, a videographer and a photographer. All those people, all that rehearsal time and all that effort for just three performances! WoW. An AWESOME and incredible commitment goes to everyone who was involved.
The final word goes to my wife AKA Captain ‘Jane’ Hook – the most feared pirate on the high seas and in pantoland. The girl/dame did good. She certainly had a stage presence, delivered a confident performance, projected her voice and terrified the kiddies in the front row just like a panto villain should. For someone who has never done this before I’m sure we’ve not seen the last of this panto dame!