Macbeth home run

After touring in Continental Europe Macbeth (ETG webpage) has finally arrived in Cambridge for the home run. They have received great reviews in Varsity (5/5) and The Cambridge Student (8/10). The Tab also has a review, but I have given up on understanding their grading scheme. I photographed their first dress rehearsal before the tour (blog post), which was a lot of fun but unfortunately we did not have time to run through the entire play. Things overran and we had to stop right before the big sword fight in order to transform the Fitzpatrick Hall stage back into a badminton court for the people that had booked it afterwards. The director Nicholas Hulbert mentioned that they would have another dress rehearsal when they returned to Cambridge, so there would be a second opportunity to photograph. I have been looking forward to their ADC dress rehearsal for a few weeks now. On the day of the dress rehearsal I arrived a bit early to also get a few behind-the-scenes shots of the cast preparing.

The second dress rehearsal was even stronger than the first one with more intensity, and the sword fights at the end choreographed by Bea Svistunenko and Robbie Taylor Hunt were fierce. If you compare with the old photos you can also see that Shanti Daffern and the crew have had time to tweak the lights, giving it a more refined look. Having the hazer on pretty much non-stop also added to the atmosphere. I have tried to give a short comment on each photo, with my thoughts around it and a bit of background.

Kate Reid and Louise Banable preparing the witch make-up. I like Kate’s profile showing off the face painting in this photo. Random fact: if you paint the eye itself then the actress sees everything in a blue haze. Perhaps not so surprising.
Rhianna Frost carefully applying her own make-up. The first shot was taken from her right side, but by moving the wardrobe-coat-hanger-thingy on wheels to the side it was possible to shoot from the left and get the rest of the room reflected in the mirrors, giving a bit more context to this photo.
Shortly before the rehearsal started the actors gathered and did some energising exercises. Here they were reciting random lines and making silly impressions. At another point they were all chanting “I feel so good, oh, I feeeel soooo good!” repeatedly. It felt like stepping right into a cult.
Rhianna Frost, Guy Clarke, Kate Reid and Tom Russel. The first scene of the play was quite dark, with the spotlights and haze defining nice silhouettes. I like the repetition the three actors in the front make. The second witch in the background breaking the symmetry a bit.
Laura Waldren playing Lady Macbeth. In the previous dress rehearsal they had water in the pool, but they replaced it with a hazer for a more dramatic look.
Macbeth (Tom Russell) and his Lady (Laura Waldren).

If you compare these photos with the ones from the previous dress rehearsal you might see that there is more variation in the angles the first time. At both dress rehearsals I had the opportunity to walk around on stage for all but the fight and fire scenes. At Fitzpatrick Hall the stage was level with the audience, since it was just used for rehearsal, so I could easily move between the two spaces. Here at the ADC the stage is raised, and also a bit smaller, so I preferred to shoot mostly in front of the stage to get a bit more distance, allowing me to fit more in the frame with my 50 mm lens.

Tom Russel. The haze from the pool adds atmosphere to the photo and creates a nice framing.
Rhianna Frost as one of the Witches with Macbeth.
Murder! This photo is a bit unbalanced, with Laura and Tom at either end of the side. What helps a bit is the tapestry in the centre. By taking a small step to the left I could have brought the two actors closer together in the view. In the frame after this I had done so, but perhaps too far making them overlap with the tapestry.
Tom Russel and Laura Waldren. This is a composite shot. A larger aperture means that my camera will get more light on the sensor, but it also means I have a reduced depth of field. So here I took two photos with different focus and combined the two.
Declan Amphlett, Alasdair McNab, Laura Waldren, Tom Russell and Ed Limb. Here I was moving so as to make sure everyone was visible in the photo and did not overlap (too much) each other.
Ed Limb and Alasdair McNab. The mist and the light give this scene a look of mystery.

When photographing I usually have my white balance set to auto since that is the one thing I can adjust freely in post processing. For scenes with a very strong colour like here, where the blue channel almost drowns all other colours, I sometimes try and warm the scene up a bit to bring back some of the other colours, and increase the colour contrast. Much of what I do in post processing is about making the subject stand out more in the scene, be it with colours, contrast or selective blurring.

Julia Kass, Kate Reid, Guy Clark and Rhianna Frost. Before this dress rehearsal I looked through my old photos from the previous one, and this was one of the scenes that I felt I had not been able to capture properly. I wanted to better capture Kate’s puppeteering of Guy. It really helps to know what is coming, giving me a bit of time to plan the shot, so I can be in the right position at the right time.

Avaunt and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!
Thy bones are marrowless, the blood is cold;
Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
Which thou dost glare with.

Laura Waldren and Tom Russel

Lady Macbeth:
You lack the season of all natures, sleep.

Alasdair McNab and Declan Amphlett. This is another of the photos where I am quite happy with the composition. I like how the banner aligns with Alasdair, with Declan on the side. The photo worked both in colour and black and white, but I felt it was slightly stronger like this, with more emphasis on the light and shadows.
Laura Waldren. I moved up on stage, and to the side in order to get the spotlight behind Laura’s head to get her backlit. There is a bit of post processing where I removed some of the distracting elements in the background to the left.

Lady Macbeth:
The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now? What, will these hands ne’er be clean?

Ed Limb, Alasdair McNab and Declan Amphlett. Here the hand pulls the eye to Declan’s head. When your eyes jump to Ed to the left, his gaze towards the centre brings you back into the photo.
Tom Russel and Laura Waldren. The blue and orange lighting looks great, and helps with the separation of subject and background. However, I felt it lost a bit of the intimacy in this photo. Making it black and white brought the focus back on the couple.
Arming for battle! If I have time, I try and get several angles of a scene. The front view looked ok, but the side view was more interesting, providing more context. Here Kate Reid, Tom Russell, Rhianna Frost and Will Bishop.
Tom Russel and Guy Clark. The fight scene was fast paced and intense. The fight choreographers Bea Svistunenko and Robbie Taylor Hunt had done a great job.
Tom Russel and Guy Clarke

My name’s Macbeth.
The devil himself could not pronounce a title
More hateful to mine ear.

Tom Russel and Guy Clarke. Macbeth kills Banquo. They had told me that there would be blood in this scene, so I was holding down the shutter capturing a long sequence of images. In the frame after this one you can see the blood sputtering out of Guy’s mouth, however, I felt their expressions reflecting the killing blow better in this one.
Tom Russel and Alasdair McNab. In this and several other photos I was trying to align the actors with the light cones from the spot lights in the background. If I had had a slightly lower angle the sword blade would have been over the yellow light cone. In the next frame it was, but then Tom had turned a bit more to his right, so I preferred this one. Getting the right composition is great, but that does not matter if you miss the moment.
Alasdair McNab and Tom Russel

Of all men else I have avoided thee,
But get thee back, my soul is too much charged
With blood of thine already.

I have no words;
My voice is in my sword, thou bloodier villain
Than terms can give thee out.

Tom Russel and Alasdair McNab

Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb
Untimely ripped.

Alasdair McNab and Tom Russel. I should perhaps have put a spoiler warning on this blog post.
Alasdair McNab

Hail, King of Scotland.


I really enjoyed this second dress rehearsal. While I was showing some of the photos on the back of the camera afterwards, Tom told me that there were a few times where he could see me move into position for a photo, so he had stalled for a second to give me the shot. Little things like that help a lot.

If you liked the photos, then go see the play, it is even better in real life with great acting and atmosphere! You can find tickets for the play on the ADC Theatre webpage. If you have a bit of time then go read Will Bishop’s post about their tour on Varsity and if you want more photos, have a look at the previous dress rehearsal.

– Johannes


Macbeth – Tom Russell
Lady Macbeth – Laura Waldren
Macduff – Alasdair McNab
Banquo – Guy Clark
Malcolm – Declan Amphlett
Lennox – Ed Limb
Duncan – Will Bishop
Witch – Rhianna Frost, Julia Kass, Kate Reid

Production Team
Tour Manager – Harriet Webb
Business Manager – Joe Winters
Director – Nicholas Hulbert
Production Manager – Jamie Balcombe
Company Manager – Greg Forrest
Assistant Director – Isolde Penwarden
Education Officer – Marthe de Ferrer
Production Designer – Louise Banable
Stage Manager – Hannah Edwards
Lighting Designer – Shanti Daffern
Chief Electrician – David Wood
Publicity Designer – Emily Newton
Fight Choreographer – Bea Svistunenko, Robbie Taylor Hunt
Technician – James Murdey, Catja Hamilton, Kathryn Dodds
Assistant Production Designer – Charlie Clark
Dress Rehearsal Photographer – Johannes Hjorth
Publicity Photographer – Atri Banerjee

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