Here's a fixture for you: a free photographic exhibition for a rainy day in the Quays. The Half: Photographs of Actors Preparing For The Stage is a collection of black and white portraits of thespians, film stars and pantomime queens by Simon Annand that have been gathered in both a fancy coffee-table book and now as an exhibition at The Lowry (until 3 January 2010).
'The half' is a theatre term referring to the final 30 minutes before curtain-up; a brief expanse of time buzzing with tension as the countdown commences over a backstage Tannoy system and the performers focus their thoughts, centre themselves - or just have a sneaky last fag on the fire escape. Annand has documented this nightly ritual over 20 years, gaining privileged access behind the be-starred doors of all the best West End venues and snapping the bold and the beautiful as they wait for their call. 'The dressing room is a physical space that allows for concentration and privacy,' says Annand, 'so the psychological negotiation between the actor and this fictional character can take place.'
The Lowry show includes a great deal more photos than I was expecting, although it is unfortunately hung in what amounts to little more than a poorly lit corridor. It runs the gamut from homegrown talent such as Maxine Peake and Frances de la Tour to big blockbuster stars such as Cate Blanchett and Daniel Craig, and I particularly loved Tilda Swinton's pensive clown and the choppy shot of a laughing Judi Dench.