The story behind this photo:



I took this photo at the Théâtre des Nations in April 1972. It shows Roy Hart at the centre of a Magic Chord in the performance, "And". I had met the Roy Hart Theatre three months earlier and "And", presented in the small London studio, had been the first performance that I had witnessed. It had a powerful effect on me. There were no words but a panoply of sound and movement, creating images that were riveting, terrifying and touching. I decided I wanted to know more about this Theatre so when the Paris performances were mentioned, I asked if I could accompany the cast. In order "to earn my passage", I thought I'd call myself a photographer, though in reality I was very much an amateur! So duly equipped with my camera and fast black and white films, I accompanied the cast to the Théâtre des Nations for Jean-Louis Barrault's festival of Theatre. The stage was an enormous four sided arena and the rehearsals required a lot of preparation just to get used to the space, acoustics, lighting etc. I sat quietly in the darkened area of the empty theatre totally absorbed in the activities on the stage. After an hour or so, I thought I would go out and have a cigarette. At that precise moment, I saw Roy and all the cast looking up into the darkness at ME. Roy was asking what I thought of the preparations so far. Had he read my thoughts? Did he work out that my concentration had gone for a moment? I shall never know but I felt as riveted to my chair as in the performance itself and decided that it was NOT the moment to leave, for a cigarette of all things too! When it came to a run through of the whole performance, I began taking photos. It involved me with every nerve ending but at the same time I felt a distance from the action. Until, that is, one specific moment. The performance always ended with what was known as a Magic Chord, a sustained major chord held in tension for several minutes as the chorus circled the solo central figure until they dropped from exhaustion. At the beginning of the Magic Chord in Paris that day in April '72, Roy was enmeshed in the chorus, their arms reaching out above him and as he looked out, his look went straight into my camera, through my own lens and into my guts. I couldn't move. I felt he saw right into me, the depths of me. Somehow I managed to press the shutter and "capture" the moment. But I swore to myself that that would be the last photo of the Roy Hart Theatre that I would take. After that I must join them. And I did. So that is the story behind the photo and if you look closely, you will meet Roy's eyes too.

Clara Silber Harris 2009


"And" photo page