Even before I went up to Edinburgh last week, my awareness of crossover/multi-disciplinary physical theatre had grown considerably over the last few months. I am unsure whether this is a real growth or just a growth in my, or even the public’s, general awareness of what companies are creating in these areas. Certainly, for me, this is hugely exciting, as it provides so much scope for the performing arts photographer as well as for the enthusiastic, decidedly non-physical, punter in me.

Having long been fascinated by comedy, mime, puppetry, contemporary circus, and dance, it is fabulous to see boundaries being crossed, dropped and merged in the creation of work that transcends disciplines and often defies description, except in relation to its narrative or just sheer beauty.

Photographing the wonderful Jackson’s Lane Postcards Festival in July was really the catalyst for me in noticing this growing trend, or at least putting some sort of label on it, however vague. Not one of the single descriptions for the performances was really adequate to pigeon-hole them (and, let’s face it, only pigeons really like pigeon-holes, and even then, I suspect they probably would rather mix a little more). From clowning to cabaret, performance art to Commedia dell’Arte and all sorts of beauty and delightful silliness in between, I (and my camera) was captivated.

With that experience burned in my brain, I set out to document other productions which similarly fired my imagination and took it yet further.

Four cases in point from my trip to Edinburgh last week (from which I am still recovering, on so many levels).

“Zanniskinheads and the Quest for the Holy Balls” by Slingshot Theatre is a laugh-out-loud, splendidly silly, Commedia dell’(f)Arte-with-a-makeover delight. Peenut and Ribbon, two loveable hooligans without a common language, or braincell, go on a quest to retrieve the Holy Grail of the Zanniskinheads, The Holy Balls. A joyful jumble of slapstick, buffoonery, hooliganism and rude noises, it was also a delight to photograph.


“The Table” by the intelligent and accomplished puppet company, Blind Summit, needed no conscious suspension of disbelief for their show, or should I say Moses’ show at is was he, the puppet, who I am sure was working the three blokes in black behind him. The grumpy, old, cardboard-boxhead man both railed against, and made the most of, his inability to get off said table. His observation that the underside of the table was hardly a dwelling, more of a structure, and the self-referential gags about puppetry and the difference between ‘psychologicals’ of acting and the ‘reality’ of puppets was both intelligent and hilarious. For a cardboard box (that is his ‘backstory’) he is remarkably photogenic, which is down to the fabulous modelling skills of Nick Barnes, who also won an unofficial Ironman award, from the Observer, for crouching down, attached to Moses’ feet for the duration. http://bit.ly/odbP2d

Scotsman Fringe First Winners and The Guardian’s Pick of the Festival 2011.


“Translunar Paradise”, by Theatre Ad Infinitum, had me both weeping and laughing. A beautiful love story of two young lovers, growing old together until William is left, bereft, by the death of Rose, told via flashbacks, is both moving and beautiful. The use of masks, mime and music is a joy to behold, the fluidity of transitions between the snapshots of the couple’s lives being closer to dance than what would normally think of as mask work. Kim Heron, musician, also won the Observer’s unofficial Ironman distinction for her multitasking.

Winner of the Holden St Theatre Award.

Deborah Pugh, as Rose, and George Mann, as William, (also Director).


“The Games”, by Spike Theatre, had me laughing so hard I thought I would need to use Tena Ladies. Barely holding the camera steady against the fits of giggles, guffaws and, I am ashamed to say, snorts, this is a highly topical production, the subject of which is the Olympic Games, the audience being taken back to Ancient Greece and bets and fights between gods and mortals. Again, this was a wonderful, high energy, blend of theatre, puppetry, clowning and music.