A dramatic evening in the heart of Belfast.
So what is a Drama Slam?
For 20 local actors, the NI Drama Slam was a chance to test themselves against their peers in an attempt to win this inaugural event, organised by local theatre company - Bigger Than Us Productions.
Each actor had sealed their place in 'the slam' (he called it, trying to sound hip) by progressing through an earlier audition process. They would then be judged on a 3 minute monologue in front of an audience and a panel of 3 judges, including an agent.
No pressure then.
The 3 top choices of the panel would then perform another 3 minute monologue each, allowing a decision on who would finally be named winner.
The event took place on the evening of Tuesday 3rd May, in the basement of the historical McHugh's Bar, facing Custom House Square on the edge of Belfast's revamped Cathedral Quarter and Titanic Quarter.
Tickets were only £5 a head, and the venue was well filled for 2-3 hours of genuine drama and tension.
For a list of all those involved in making the event happen, click here.
So what was it like then?
Well, I was there as a photographer to do an evenings work, so I didn't really expect to be paying full attention to the monologues. I was more worried about how I was going to shoot photos in almost pitch blackness with just the house lights.
I might as well be honest and up-front and say I underestimated the talent of the actors. I didn't know what to expect and I'm not a big consumer of theatre. But after shooting the first couple of actors I started to be able to appreciate the performances whilst getting my shots. None of them seemed phased by my occasional shutter clicks, there were no fluffed lines, and the power of the deliver really impressed me from all twenty. There were even tears.
I remember thinking at one stage about just how much time and work must have been put into the performances. I'm a big advocate of the concept of work ethic being more important than natural talent alone. They all have my respect.
It was extremely interesting to chat with the actors afterwards and see how different they were to their characters. In my head, not knowing the subtleties the judges were looking for, it seemed like the bigger the difference the better the actor must be, and most were very different to their role.
Shooting the actors.
Warning, this might get a bit techy. I don't mind if you skip this bit and just look at the photos!
As shooting experiences go, this is the darkest place I have ever photographed people. The house lights were 2 LED spotlights, not very powerful, and didn't have any dedicated white diodes - hence the wonderful colour casts depending where the actors were standing. I've never had to move the Tint slider past 100 before. Fun!
With the actors speaking in a silent room I tried where possible to shoot on the ends of sentences out of courtesy to them and the audience. That should have had the bonus of not getting them with their mouths in strange shapes, and perhaps less animated (less motion blur). Sometimes when that happened it added to the shot. A lot made the cutting room floor though.
Pretty much everything was 1/160th to 1/320th, pretty wide open and riding the ISO for all it was worth. A bunch of these shots are at 12,800!
So, who won?
Ok, SPOILER ALERT! Don't look down at the next photo or you'll know who made top 3..
Too late huh?
Well, ok, in reverse order .. In 3rd place, Joseph O'Hagan!
In 2nd place, Robert Render! Doesn't he look thrilled!
And finally in 1st place.. Emoting so hard at one point he actually fell off the stage..
In all seriousness though, he portrayed a couple of roles regarding growing up in Belfast that most viewers could relate to in some way (hopefully not first hand). He also spoke well about it in his interview post monologue. Very well deserved!
A big congratulations to all the actors. They put a lot into the competition, and produced a night that I would recommend going to. An absolute bargain of a night out and something a bit different than the norm.
I believe that BTU plan to hold the next event as a Duologue, so team competition drama! Follow them on Facebook here if you want to get a notification of when that will be.
If any of the actors are reading this and would like photos, just phone or email me and i'll sort you out.
And if you have read this far, thank you very much. This is my first real blog post (first I've actually pressed the publish button on) and I appreciate the support. I hope you enjoyed the read and the photos, and I'd really appreciate a follow on Facebook or Instagram (icons at the bottom) if you'd like to see more!