When it was agreed that photographer Mary McCartney was to shoot Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance whilst preparing for his ground-breaking performance of Olivia in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the understanding was that she would leave once he was made-up. Rylance had never before let anyone photograph him after that moment.
As McCartney began packing up to leave the Belasco theatre on Broadway, New York in December 2013, Rylance leant over and quietly asked if she would like to stay to photograph him and the rest of the cast during the performance backstage. This was an unprecedented opportunity to photograph a seemingly clandestine backstage world inhabited by the play’s cast, musicians and crew, which notably included Stephen Fry as Malvolio.
In Twelfth Night McCartney documents the intimate and intense pre-performance experience of some of the world’s most fascinating and powerful actors. Her compositions capture the captivating variations of the entire performative arc—the meticulous rituals of costume and makeup; a table tennis match in full Elizabethan dress; the ethereal tension of the stage wings; Shakespearean queens transfixed upon a backstage television where a European Cup match blares and the euphoria following the curtain call.