‘The half’ is a theatrical term that refers to the final half-hour before curtain up. However, ‘the half’ can also be regarded as a psychological state, in which the actor is literally half-in-half-out of their role. Simon Annand’s book The Half explores this fascinating phenomenon; photographic portraits of actors in their dressing rooms allow the viewer an intimate glimpse into the often hidden backstage world.

Idea Generation’s free exhibition offers visitors the chance to see some of Annand’s finest portraits, taken from his book. The photographs are masterful in their subtlety, the effect being that the observer feels almost voyeuristic, and certainly intrusive. Many of the actors are focussed upon their own reflections, or else are looking away from the camera; few directly acknowledge the lens. The result is an eerie yet enchanting experience, especially prominent in Annand’s black and white portraits – the monochrome effect adding an extra layer of mystery and ambiguity.

…paradoxically vulnerable yet galvanised, self-conscious…

The portrait of Tilda Swinton dressed as a Pierrot-type figure and looking into the distance (chosen as the iconic image for the exhibition) is especially haunting. Other noteworthy portraits included a startling portrayal of Benedict Cumberbatch with the skin of his forehead pulled back as he prepares to play Frankenstein’s monster, and a beautifully sultry picture of Cate Blanchett applying lipstick, her arms crossed spasmodically across her body.

Annand’s portraits effortlessly capture the actors as they gradually immerse themselves within their onstage personas. The subjects are paradoxically vulnerable yet galvanised, self-conscious even as they are oblivious; such a fascinating psychological study ought not to be missed. 

The exhibition runs until 8 April

Admission: free

4 Stars


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