Oeidipus and Antigone

This week’s main show at the ADC Theatre is a play combining two classical Greek tragedies, Oedipus and Antigone. I had the pleasure of attending the dress rehearsal this past Tuesday over lunch. This is an intense show with very strong performances. One after the other the actors impressed on stage. There is a preview of the play in Varsity, and two reviews: one in Varsity and one in The Cambridge Student if you are curious to learn more. You can book your tickets on the ADC Theatre webpage, the show runs until Saturday.

There is a reason why the old Greek classics have stuck around for so long. They contain powerful stories that echo through time. This is a remake set in a modern Thebes with cameras and journalists on stage, directed by Robbie Taylor Hunt. For those new to the blog, what I do is show a selection of the photos, and tell my side of the experience, and how I captured the pictures.

The stage has a stylised white decor, built with multiple levels. I shot the last two dress rehearsals with my old camera, but for this show I brought out the new one. It is a little bit quieter than the old one, and the focus sensor is supposed to be able to have better low light performance. I used single point auto-focus on my old camera, and it had a tendency to hunt for focus when it got darker. This camera has the option to use a group of centrally placed focus points, which together with better sensors, means it managed to lock on focus in most of the shots, and do so rather quickly. At the time of the dress rehearsal all the lights had not been set properly, and some of the scenes were quite dark. Having good equipment is a crutch you can lean on when you either make mistakes, such as underexposing, or are photographing in poor light conditions. There are still things you can do, like focusing on the subjects that are in light, making the people in darkness around them almost part of the decor, or using silhouettes against a bright background to capture the scene in a more stylised way.

I always enjoy dress rehearsals. You have strong emotional content delivered right there in front of you. It is like a distilled version of real life, and when you get home you have such a wide range of photos after just a couple of hours of photographing. It is easy to get addicted to this.

The intro sequence of the play. I am used to having a bit of a wait before the dress rehearsal starts, but this time it started pretty much on time. There was so much going on at the same time on stage, that I did not have a chance to properly frame the photos. Here is one of the ones that I picked. Normally I do not alter the photos that much, but here I decided to have a bit of fun and play around with the light. I added the bright light at the top, with the rays of light shining down on the actors.
Alasdair McNab (as Oedipus) and Laura Waldern (as Jocasta) with Rose Reade and Tom Beaven in the background. With the focus of the scene on them, I wanted some of the other members of the cast in the background looking at the couple.
Kay Dent as Teiresias, the blind soothsayer, who brings dire news to the city of Thebes. I wanted her facing the camera in the front, so moved to the left on stage and then a corridor opened up between the cast so I could see Oedipus on the throne.
Composition-wise this is one of my favourite shots. You have Rose Reade and Tom Beaven in the background to the left on a white background, Joanna Vymeris and Harry Gower to the right on a black background, and Oedipus in the centre, a bit blurry, as he is out of focus and moving. If I remember right the light was a bit dark, so I pushed the exposure and made the shot black and white for dramatic effect with a hint of split toning, orange for the highlights and blue for the shadows.
There is a flashback scene where young Oedipus in a rage unknowingly kills his father and the five people travelling with him. Here is a photo taken in the aftermath as the victims were rising again and getting off stage. Rebecca Thomas in the foreground. This is starting to sound like a cookery book recipe: sprinkle lightly with the sharpening brush on the faces to make them pop out in the photo, pay extra attention to the eyes.
Connie Bennett takes to the bottle, here sitting alone on stage. I photographed her from a few different angles, what I like about this photo is both her pose, and that you have the throne in the background. The royal couple, the source of all the trouble.
Alasdair McNab and Laura Waldren. I like the intimacy in this photo, the tender embrace before the kiss.
Rebecca Thomas, Ed Broadhead, Alasdair McNab, Tom Beaven and Rose Reade.
Ryan Monk (the Shepard) and Kay Dent (the blind soothsayer Teiresias). Here I have just moved sideways to hide the actor in the background so I could get a clean background behind the hand in the air.
Alasdair McNab. I move around a lot, trying to anticipate what will happen and testing different angles. Here I shot low and straight on. The split second pose is almost comical, but the scene itself was very intense. A nice touch is the bottle right under his left foot.
Bea Svistunenko, Harry Gower, Alasdair McNab, Joanna Vymeris and Connie Bennett. We are now getting into the realm of serious spoilers, but I guess everyone is already familiar with the Oeidipus story. Here Oedipus has just torn out his eyes, and he comes on stage with a bloodied face. This is a composite shot, I wanted to have Connie Bennet on the far right in the frame. I brightened the right half considerably to make her more visible.
Alasdair McNab. Sometimes it is better to focus on details, here I saw the hand in the air and tried to get the bloodied fingers. Everything else is just there to provide context for the outstretched hand.
Tom Beaven (as Creon) sits down on the throne as the new king of Thebes. This is shot moments before the safety curtain rises ending the first part of the play.
The second part starts with violence and some nicely choreographed action scenes. Unfortunately all but the last bit was done in pitch darkness with only a dim light on the background so I have few shots of the main group scenes. Here a shot of Bea Svistunenko and Harry Gower just after we got a bit of light on stage again.
Helena Eccles and Rhianna Frost as the two sisters Ismene and Antigone. After a vicious fight their brothers are dead, one receiving a fine burial the other one left to rot. Antigone wants to bury her brother properly, but Ismene is too afraid to do so. For this photo I wanted to capture their interaction. The light was focused on them, to avoid having just two floating heads, I have brightened the shadows a bit to reveal their overcoats.
Creon is not happy that his nephew left to rot has been given a burial. Here Ryan Monk, the Shepherd turned guard, is getting instructions to find the guilty party with Helena Eccles in the background.
Joanna Vymeris, Kay Dent and Laura Waldren. The blind Soothsayer returns.
My favourite photo from the play. Simple light, and a strong performance by Laura Waldern. I did not have to do much in post processing, only did minor tweaks to the curves and added a bit of sharpening. There are several shots in this series, I was tempted to show them all.
Rhianna Frost (Antigone), the sister who buried her brother to give him peace in the afterlife, gets ready to join him. At one point her dead father Oedipus walks on stage.
Tom Beaven and Kay Dent. In this photo I like that there is a corridor of light leading the eyes between the two faces. First you see the Soothsayer, then you see the King in despair. His hands are tied, he has to kill Antigone so as not to seem weak, but he does not really want to.
Laura Waldren, Tom Beavan and Kay Dent.
Laura Waldren and Helena Eccles.


Tom Beaven
Connie Bennett, Harry Gower, Laura Jayne, Alasdair McNab, Rhianna Frost, Ryan Monk, Helena Claire, Rebecca Thomas, Joanna Vymeris, Rose Juliet Reade, Tom Beaven, Marco Young and Kay Dent. I have not mentioned it before, but in several of the photos above I have cleaned up a bit of the decor, or removed stray lights in the background. Since I am shooting this from all sort of angles, sometimes the side lights are visible. In order not make them distract too much I simply use the content aware brush to remove them.

What have I learned from this dress rehearsal? I took about 900 photos, and with the new camera these files are huge (around 40MB each). I did not have enough disk space on my laptop to download all photos directly. This meant a bit of juggling to sort through the photos. I think the solution is to start taking fewer photos. I have probably said it before, but it is difficult when there is fast paced action, or great scenes and you want to make sure you get the good shot. With the old camera I needed to take more pictures to make sure there was one where the subject was in focus, once I can start trusting the auto-focus on the new camera to perform in low light I might reduce the number of shots. Then again, you want to capture the right moment. So we might be back at taking lots of photos during intense scenes. All that is just technicalities, but important none the less, since editing takes a long time.

This was a great play with a great and friendly cast and I am very happy that I had the opportunity to photograph their dress rehearsal. I hope you have a chance to see it!

– Johannes

Reviews: Varsity (3/5), The Cambridge Student (8/10), The Tab

Oedipus – Alasdair McNab
Jocasta – Laura Waldren
Antigone – Rhianna Frost
Creon – Tom Beaven
Teiresias – Kay Dent
Ismene – Helena Eccles
Shepard – Ryan Monk
Haemon – Marco Young
Chorus – Rose Reade, Harry Gower, Connie Bennett, Rebecca Thomas, Ed Broadhead, Bea Svistunenko, Joanna Vymeris

Production Team
Director – Robbie Taylor Hunt
Producer – Helen Lam
Assistant Producer – Gabriel Agranoff
Set Designer – Matt Penellum
Costume and Make-up Designer – Marina Anastasi, Freddie Cooke
Lighting Designer – Bethany Craik, David Wood
Chief Electrician – Ian Leith
Deputy Stage Manager – James Wright
Publicity Designer – Victoria Bellamy
Publicity Photographer – Chloe Carroll
Technical Director – Lydia Clark
Stage Manager – Lewis Scott
Assistant Producer – Joe Winters
Assistant Stage Manager – Issy Gately
Trailer Cinematographer – Elias Wynshaw
Photographer – Johannes Hjorth

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