Simon Annand’s exploration of the usually off-limits journey from dressing room to stage.

For twenty-five years actors have given Simon Annand unprecedented access to photograph them in the intimacy of their dressing rooms during the sacrosanct thirty minutes before curtain up, known as 'the half'. It’s a time for intense concentration when all but the cast and crew are obliged to leave the area backstage.

These rare images show the myriad ways in which actors focus for the performance ahead. Never before has this exclusive world been photographed in such depth.

This magnificent book contains over 300 pictures: a dazzling gallery of our most celebrated actors, from Jude Law to Vanessa Redgrave to Martin Sheen, from Glenn Close to Alan Bates to Francesca Annis. The photographs record actors at the height of their powers - Eric Porter readying himself for King Lear in 1987 - as well as young actors who have since become household names - Kenneth Branagh before his film career, Anthony Hopkins at the National, pre-Hollywood Colin Firth and Daniel Day Lewis as young men in the eighties . There’s a twenty-three year old Ben Whishaw about to play Hamlet; and Daniel Radcliffe during his West End debut in Equus . John Gielgud is seen at the Apollo just before the curtain rises on his last ever stage performance and, nearly twenty years later, we see Juliette Lewis, warming-up for Fool for Love in the same theatre. The 2008 cast of Hairspray waits in the wings on Shaftesbury Avenue on one page, while Michael Gambon, alone in an austere dressing room, prepares to play Deeley in Pinter’s Old Times on another.

The Half makes for compelling viewing and offers us a spellbinding glimpse into the heart of the acting process.

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