“They’re one of the nice parts of the job,” Tom Chambers tells me as we stroll across London heading swiftly towards a subterranean car park.
He’s just left the London Palladium, where, looking every inch the dapper tap dance star in a spotless dinner jacket, he has been photographed alongside an equally swish looking Neil McDermott and a rather glamorous Kara Tointon.
“So often in this industry,” he tells me, dodging traffic with the swift feet of a leading man in a dance-filled West End musical, “you do a job and then you turn a page and move on to the next thing. You constantly lose touch with people and then you just suddenly meet up again [somewhere like today’s photoshoot for the Radio Times] and pick up where you left off.”
There is a lot of that happening at the London Palladium as different groups are brought together to capture a little piece of Theatreland on film. Well, maybe not on film these days, but capturing images on SD card just doesn’t sound as romantic, does it?
Mark Gatiss (The Recruiting Officer) and Eve Myles (All New People), make a very Doctor Who-ish couple as they casually lounge in the wings, leading men Russell Tovey (Sex With A Stranger), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Pitchfork Disney), Mackenzie Crook (The Recruiting Officer) and Joseph Mawle (The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot) chat like old mates at stage door, while stars of current hit comedies Ben Miller (The Ladykillers) and Robert Glenister (Noises Off) catch up between shots in an opulent box.
“To be in a place like this…” Chambers says, trailing off as his thoughts drift around the hallowed hallways of one of the capital’s most iconic venues. He’s not the only one to fall under the Palladium’s charms. In fact, it is the most experienced of professionals who cheekily sneak onto the famous stage – which currently hosts munchkins, witches and an emerald city in The Wizard Of Oz – to experience the thrill of looking out into the historic auditorium. Patrick Stewart (Bingo) tries it once on the way from a dressing room to pose for photographer Charlie Gray in one of the theatre’s bars, then leads colleagues Celia Imrie (Noises Off) and Lindsay Duncan (Hay Fever) astray on the way back.
The casualness and ease of the pictures, of course, belie preparation and time taken to capture that one perfect shot where eyes light up, people connect or the most natural of smiles spreads across a face. Hanging around ‘backstage’ trying to take behind the scenes images only leaves me with lens envy and a realisation that owning a camera does not make you a photographer.
“I think it’s always lovely to get your hair and make-up done,” says Jessica Raine minutes before her shoot is due to begin. “And you get to meet the most incredible actors and actresses that I’ve certainly admired for a long time. I might get a bit tongue tied.”
If she did, it doesn’t show in Gray’s image, which shows her chatting away happily with Anne-Marie Duff. Hours of preparation to capture one perfect theatrical moment.
You can see backstage footage and images of the Radio Times photoshoot above. The beautiful final images can be found in the current edition of the Radio Times.