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Photographer Helen Murray creates exhibition of empty stages during the pandemic

The stage photographer has revealed the new pictures today

Nine of the venues captured
© Helen Murray

Stage photographer Helen Murray has created an exhibition of empty venues alongside quotes from over 100 theatre workers as the pandemic continues.

Murray, who has snapped some of the most iconic stage shows, said today: "Over the course of lockdown I set myself a challenge to create a project that responded to it but that also told a photographic story of its own. I kept coming back to our empty theatres – these spaces that were now without life, without people and without stories.

Unicorn Theatre
© Copyright Helen Murray 2020

"I visited and captured a total of 22 theatre spaces in London, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. Shooting this series has been sobering. Going back to into these spaces that I know so well and being met with total silence. No background noise, no chitter chatter, no infectious laughs bellowing out of a rehearsal room, just complete silence. The stark opposite of what they should be. In the forefront of my mind throughout shooting was what are these buildings are without all the glorious, wonderful, different kinds of people that inhabit them, from the army of freelancers to the permanent staff, to the ushers, box office, bookshop, stage door, café & bar staff, volunteers, community and audience members?

Leeds Playhouse
© Helen Murray

"I wanted to contact these people to ask them ‘what do our empty theatres mean to you?'

"As the theatre sector continues to face uncertainty I hope the series serves as a reminder of why we must fight to fill these buildings with the people that make them thrive and not forget those who have been underrepresented in the past.

"My photos are a love letter to not just the theatres themselves but to the people, artists and communities who give these buildings life.

"I invite you to share what #OurEmptyTheatres means to you."

Theatre Royal Stratford East
© Helen Murray

Gloria Akpoke, a young company member at Manchester Royal Exchange said: "To me empty theatres are bodies without a heart beat. Empty theatres are places where magic has been taken from our mundane world. It means a place that once shared laughter, sadness, love and every emotion through story telling has now been silenced. An empty Theatre is like creating a microphone and not letting anyone use it to sing. An empty theatre means we starve ourselves of stories that bring us comfort, magic, wisdom and unity. An empty theatre is everything it was never created to be."

The Roundhouse
© Helen Murray

Writer James Graham added: "These disquieting images of quiet theatres are vital in reminding us of what was the longest ever period of closure, creating the most serious existential threat, to one of the oldest human activities we have. What I feel most when I see these heart-stopping images isn't sadness, strangely. What I feel overwhelmingly is hope. These spaces are waiting for us to return…".

Royal Exchange Manchester
© Helen Murray

You can see the full series here.

The Albany
© Helen Murray
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