Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Idle Motion: Shooting With Light

By | Published on Thursday 26 March 2015

We first came across theatre company Idle Motion at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where they’ve impressed our review team with their excellent, thought-provoking work. When I heard they were planning to shine their light on on the subject of Gerda Taro, a skilled German photographer who worked on the frontlines of the Spanish Civil War, I was intrigued.


I sent some questions over to Grace Chapman, who performs in the play, ‘Shooting With Light’, but is also co-director, producer and company manager of Idle Motion.

CM: Can you tell us what happens in the show? What and who is it about?
GC: ‘Shooting with Light’ tells the story of Gerda Taro, a young German refugee who fled to Paris in 1933 and met fellow refugee Andre Friedman who taught her how to photograph. Together they would photograph the Spanish Civil War, and in doing so become the pioneers of frontline photojournalism as we know it today. He would go on to become iconic war photographer ‘Robert Capa’; she would be forgotten. ‘Shooting with Light’ is about Gerda’s life, her relationship with Andre, and the rediscovery of her whole body of work, found in a suitcase, in Mexico City, in 2007.

CM: What attracted you to the idea of creating a show about Gerda Taro?
GC: When we started this process we knew we wanted to do a show about photography but with such a vast and rich topic we realised very quickly we wanted to find one story or one person to focus on. We stumbled upon Gerda Taro and were immediately struck by her talent for photography, her bravery and her passion for capturing humanity with her camera. When we first started making the show we were 26, the same age as Gerda when she died photographing the Spanish frontline, and so we were particularly inspired by all that she achieved. It then became apparent that no one really knew who she was, she had been forgotten by history – which only compelled us further to put her life on stage.

CM: How and when did you come across the photographer and her work?
GC: That would be thanks to the internet! We started researching for this show about a year ago and with such a huge topic such as photography, there were numerous avenues we could have pursued. But as soon as we read about Gerda we were certain that hers was the right story to tell.

CM: How did you go about creating the show? What kind of research and development did you do?
GC: We have read everything and anything we can about Gerda and Capa. When you’re devising work it’s so important to come to the rehearsal room with plenty of research so that as soon as you (inevitably) get stuck, you can always go back to that. We have also worked closely with Gerda’s biographer, Jane Rogoyska, on the production. We felt very strongly that we wanted to do Gerda’s work and life justice, so having Jane in the room was invaluable to making sure we get it right and find Gerda’s voice.

In terms of creating the show, I know this sounds obvious, but it is a really just a process of working out what parts of her life we wanted to tell and how we could tell it in the most interesting way possible. Our shows are very visual so we always approach scenes with this in mind and the theatre between scenes is as important as the scenes themselves – we spend a LOT of time on transitions, which can be a bit mind numbing after a while, but we hope it pays off in the end.

CM: How did you settle on the title for this?
GC: An afternoon throwing titles around from the good to the obscure. It’s always bit of an odd exercise finding the title before you’ve made the show! In the end ‘Shooting with Light’ won because we felt it was active, visual and was invoked conflict photography.

CM: Idle Motion is known for its imaginative multimedia staging. Has Taro’s photography helped inform the set for this?
GC: Enormously. We had her photographs in the rehearsal room to refer to whenever we needed and it is impossible not to be inspired by them. The set itself is based on the suitcase that her body of work was discovered inside so everything comes from that. We have also been granted permission from The International Centre of Photography in New York to project her photographs which is brilliant – the images and layers of multimedia really make the show.

CM: Why do you think Gerda Taro isn’t more well known, given the extraordinary work she produced?
GC: It’s a combination of factors really. She photographed the Spanish Civil War and once the atrocities of World War II commenced the world was quick to forget Spain and the horror that happened there. She died when she was just 26 and had no one to left to champion her, she was the love of Robert Capa’s life and he was unable to speak of her after she died. Finally that fact that her body of work was hidden away in a wardrobe in Mexico City for 70 years meant there was no evidence of her career and her talent. Its rediscovery was the rediscovery of her, and really that’s what this show is about.

CM: What happens to the show after its London run? Are there plans for a tour?
GC: Yes it’s off on a UK tour after the run at New Diorama and then it’s back to London at Greenwich Theatre 7-9 May.

CM: What’s next for Idle Motion?
GC: We have a UK tour of our show ‘That is All You Need to Know’ which tells the story of Alan Turing and Bletchley Park in May/June and then we are taking ‘Shooting with Light’ to China for three weeks in September which is very exciting. We are also off to the Edinburgh Fringe – but as punters this time!

‘Shooting With Light’ is on at New Diorama Theatre until 11 April. See the venue website here for more information and tickets.

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