“A rare peep back stage that Mary has so spontaneously
and sensitively photographed.”— Mark Rylance
Twelfth Night is published today in hardback by HENI publishing.
When it was agreed that photographer Mary McCartney was to shoot Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance whilst preparing for his ground-breaking performance of Olivia in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the understanding was that she would leave once he was made-up. Rylance had never before let anyone photograph him after that moment.
As McCartney began packing up to leave the Belasco theatre on Broadway, New York in December 2013, Rylance leant over and quietly asked if she would like to stay to photograph him and the rest of the cast during the performance backstage. This was an unprecedented opportunity to photograph a seemingly clandestine backstage world inhabited by the play’s cast, musicians and crew, which notably included Stephen Fry as Malvolio.
In Twelfth Night McCartney documents the intimate and intense pre-performance experience of some of the world’s most fascinating and powerful actors. Her compositions capture the captivating variations of the entire performative arc—the meticulous rituals of costume and makeup; a table tennis match in full Elizabethan dress; the ethereal tension of the stage wings; Shakespearean queens transfixed upon a backstage television where a European Cup match blares and the euphoria following the curtain call.
“I enjoy the anachronistic marriage of old and new that Mary has photographed, the beauty of our Shakespearean clothes next to our modern clothes, but most of all I treasure the photographs of actors waiting to cross that invisible line between backstage and onstage. I don’t know of a photographer being present at these moments before. To be able to spontaneously photograph this world without any preparation is credit to Mary’s skill.”— Mark Rylance
From the periods of intense psychological preparation to the candid moments of relaxation that accompany the intensity of the stage wings, McCartney’s photographs create a fascinating juxtaposition of these intricately costumed figures in various stages of period dress against the backstage spaces of the theatre.
Exquisitely designed by Thomas Persson, founder and editor of Acne Paper and Luncheon magazines, Twelfth Night includes an extensive body of work with quotes taken from a conversation between McCartney and Mark Rylance about the creative process; a foreword by Rylance and an excerpt from an essay ‘Shakespeare in Ten Acts’ by Dr. Farah Karim-Cooper, Head of Research at the Globe Theatre.
Mary McCartney’s photographic work focusses on discovering those rare moments of unguarded, emotionally charged intimacy that offers us a new insight to the subject. Her work has concentrated on the world of portrait and candid reportage photography and is suffused with a deep personal investment that captures the creative chemistry between photographer and subject.