“I know the place.
It is true.
Everything we do
Corrects the space
Between death and me
― Harold Pinter, I Know The Place
Cleansed, 1998 – Sarah Kane’s play, directed by James Macdonald and starring Suzan Sylvester, at the Royal Court, London
Dip your head into the little pot of ice-cream and you miss it, that moment in the play that sums up its essence, movement, atmosphere and emotion. Ivan Kyncl (1953-2004) had it covered, his photographs capture performers “in the minute”.
The Czech-born theatre photographer’s images are on display at London’s V&A. Kyncl photographed over 500 plays, operas and musicals. His legacy exists in over a million images (not all exhibited). They’re a far cry from lobby cards and the stilted photos still used on posters and front-of-house boards to show the stars and sets in sharp focus but revealing nothing of the show’s spirit. Odd to portray a play – a word that evokes activity and entertainment – as something solid and complete. But though Kyncl’s lens plays look lively, formed in chiaroscuro and swirls, and most likely better than the actual show.
An Inspector Calls, 1992 – JB Priestley’s play, directed by Stephen Daldry at the National Theatre, London. Set design by Ian MacNeil
Hello and Goodbye, 1988 – Antony Sher in Athol Fugard’s play, directed by Janice Honeyman at Almeida Theatre, London
Electra, 1988 – Fiona Shaw in Sophocles’ play, directed by Deborah Warner at Barbican Centre, London
Equus, 1997 – Peter Shaffer’s play, directed by Terry Hands at Theatr Clwyd, Mold
Plenty, 1999 – Cate Blanchett in David Hare’s play, directed for the Almeida by Jonathan Kent and designed by Maria Bjornson, at the Albery Theatre, London
Tango at the End of Winter, 1991 – Alan Rickman in Peter Barnes’ adaptation of Kunio Shimizu’s play, directed by Yukio Ninagawa at Piccadilly Theatre, London
The Birthday Party, 2002 – Harold Pinter’s play, directed by Erica Whyman at Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Design by Soutra Gilmour
Julius Caesar, 1991 – Starring Jonathan Hyde and directed by Steven Pimlott at Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
The Duchess of Malfi, 2003 – Janet McTeer in John Webster’s play, directed by Phyllida Lloyd at the National Theatre, London
Three Sisters, 2003 – Chekhov’s play, directed by Katie Mitchell at the National Theatre, London. Design by Vicki Mortimer
The Maids, 1999 – Jean Genet’s play, directed by Katie Mitchell at the Young Vic, London
The Seagull, 2003 – Phyllis Nagy’s adaptation of Chekhov’s play, directed by Steven Pimlott at Chichester Festival Theatre. Design by Alison Chitty
Mojo, 1995 – Jez Butterworth’s play, directed by Ian Rickson at the Royal Court, London. Set design by Ultz
The Balcony, 1987 – Jean Genet’s play, directed by Terry Hands and starring Jim Carter at the Barbican Centre, London. Design by Abd Elkader Farrah
Baby Doll, 1999 – Tennessee Williams’ play, directed by Lucy Bailey at Birmingham Repertory theatre. Set design by Bunny Christie