Time to Act: a look at Simon Annand’s new book and exhibition

Published by Lannoo Publishers (with £1 from each sale going to the Theatre Artists Fund), Simon Annand’s new book Time to Act, containing 230 images of actors preparing to go on stage, is now being reprinted due to popular demand.

Coming more than a decade after The Half, Annand’s new book returns to photographing actors backstage in theatres before showtime. It is a perfect gift for any theatre lover, or those who admire the very best in portrait photography.

In the current climate when occupations in the arts have been described as “unviable” and theatres themselves managing with uncertainty and financial losses, Time to Act is also a celebration of stage magic itself and those who provide it in front of the footlights.

Portrait of Glenn Close by Simon Annand
Portrait of Glenn Close by Simon Annand

Simon Annand has been photographing actors backstage in West End theatres for 35 years – although Time to Act is not exclusively restricted to these theatres, with The Vaults being one of the additional venues featured. Where The Half was a showcase of black and white photography, Time to Act is primarily in full colour.

My personal favourites from the book include portraits of Annabel Scholey on the fire escape at the Duke of York’s in 2013, John Goodman goofing at the Wyndham’s in 2015, Mark Strong deep in thought at the Young Vic in 2015, Kate Fleetwood adding Goneril’s jewellery at the National in 2014, and Cate Blanchett daubed in stage blood at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York.

A virtual exhibition, launched in early October, has now been extended until Christmas. The exhibition is refreshed on a weekly basis with images from the book, some of which are also available for purchase. You will also find a commentary on each image featured, and you can ‘visit’ each gallery through an innovative app (see headline image).

Images from Time to Act, by Simon Annand
Images from Time to Act, by Simon Annand

Both book and exhibition capture the moments before the curtain rises, the lights go down, and the fourth wall goes up. Outside of the West End, some regional spaces have been featured, and I would love to see future peeks into what goes on behind the scenes in fringe theatre.

The book is available from Amazon and Waterstones, at £39.95 RRP. It is a lovely coffee table hardback I was delighted to add to my collection. You can visit the virtual exhibition at https://timetoactphotos.com/.

The Theatre Artists Fund provides emergency support for theatre workers and freelancers across the UK. You can donate to the fund here.

All images copyright Simon Annand.