This week our blog has been written by Beth Easdown, our model for the Northanger Abbey Photo shoot earlier this month, read on to find out about her experience:
On the morning of Thursday 15th September, I was woken at 5:30am by the persistent ringing of my alarm clock urging me to rise. Despite it still feeling like the middle of the night, I willingly dragged myself out from the comfort and warmth of my bed, to ensure I’d be ready for my 6:15am pick up. Today was the day I joined the Theatre Royal marketing team to shoot the promotional images for their upcoming production of Austen’s Northanger Abbey.
Still half asleep, I made a start on getting myself prepped for the day: styling my hair into a traditional ‘Austen’ do, complete with the ringlet curls (it’s amazing what a pair of curling tongs can do!), before waiting to be picked up and taken to the Theatre Royal to continue the preparation.
Once I arrived at the Theatre, I was met be Heidi McEvoy-Swift who organised the costuming for the shoot. Having worked with Heidi before I was excited to see the costumes she had in mind for the character and it certainly did not disappoint! I had the Privilege of trying on some incredible period dresses, and to top it off, I had the chance to wear the same dress Actress Sorcha Cusack wore in a BBC version of Vanity Fair!
Next step was make up. The lovely Liz Lacey (who I had the pleasure of meeting when she worked as the makeup artists on the production of KES) did an incredible job yet again. Although, it was safe to say that the simple make up needed for period style of ‘Northanger’ was far more straight-forward than the vibrant 60’s look she created last time we met! We settled with a very natural face, just using a light foundation base, a stroke of clear mascara, and little tinted Vaseline to add some subtle colour to the lips. With the preparation done, we all set off to the Abbey Gardens at about 7:15am to start shooting, before we missed the best of the early morning light.
The early rise was completely worth it in the end. The Abbey looked absolutely beautiful: The combination of the dappled morning light rising from behind the cathedral, alongside the eerie haze of fog, created the perfect backdrop for our gothic shoot. The photographer (Bill Jackson) had already scouted out several locations amongst the Abbey ruins, which we shot at over the course of the morning, testing out different angles and lighting states, in an attempt to find the most fitting and dramatic landscape for our promotional images. It’s amazing how quickly the light changes in the morning, and therefore how quickly we had to work in order to capture the right atmosphere and tone before being plunged in dark shadows or overwhelming sunlight.
Having the Abbey Gardens to ourselves was definitely a bonus. Not only did it give us complete freedom to use any area we desired without interruption, it also really added to the mysterious ambience of Northanger Abbey that we were striving to capture. In fact, it was only as the morning went on, and the gardens began to fill up with members of the public walking to work and school, that I remembered we were still in Bury St Edmunds town centre!
As a working model I am getting used to the hard work, early starts and excitement of working on collaborative projects such as this; however my experience working with the team at Bury Theatre Royal felt so much more special and exhilarating for me, as the theatre holds such a special place in my heart, having grown up performing and watching theatre here. So to be able to offer something back to the place that sparked my love of performing and inspired me to follow my dream as an actress, was extremely important and pinnacle for me.
I’m so pleased and extremely thankful to have been selected by Karen Simpson to be the face of this touring production of ‘Northanger Abbey’ and cannot wait to see the final images, as well as the actual performance when it comes to our Theatre in February!
Who knows, maybe one day in the future, I may return as a professionally trained actress and have the privilege of performing period dramas such as Northanger Abbey at Theatre Royal! Either way, I will continue to treasure the memory of this shoot and show gratitude to the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds for letting me be a part of such an exciting project!
Written by Beth Easdown, Northanger Abbey photo shoot model.