By Maria Morrison
Bespoke photography, contemporary design and dynamic digital storytelling – this year, RCS unveiled its bold new digital prospectus. At its heart, a stunning central image starring students and staff and shot by one of the UK’s top photographers. Maria Morrison goes behind the scenes on the campaign shoot.
It’s 7am on a cold, crisp, December morning and whilst most of Glasgow city sleeps on, the New Athenaeum Theatre is already full of life.
Backstage, an excitable energy dances through the air where ballet dancers step into exquisite handmade costumes, a Snow Queen has her crown fitted and a piper straightens his kilt pin.
A film student assembles her equipment and, in the wings, a cellist swings her ball gown in delight as she waits to be called on stage.
The New Athenaeum is no stranger to large-scale productions and today, it’s home to something very special. It’s the campaign shoot for the new RCS digital prospectus, which will offer prospective students an exclusive and immersive look behind the scenes at one of the world’s top destinations to study the performing and production arts.
Months of preparation have taken place in the lead up to today. Prop stores have been scoured and wardrobes rifled to find items to create something spectacular. A dress kindly borrowed from Scottish Opera provides the perfect costume for one cast member. A trip to the RCS Archives and Collections unearths a hidden gem while MacGregor and MacDuff donate a fetching grey granite tartan kilt for the piper.
Now, it’s finally showtime.
This cast of characters – students from across the disciplines – take up position on the set of the stunning festive show Cinderella with its suspended metal birdcages, statement staircase and full moon overhead, casting an ethereal glow.
There’s activity everywhere. An intricately embroidered chaise longue sofa and a Marie Antoinette wig are amongst the props arriving on stage as Production Management and Technology students rig the lighting under the supervision of Cinderella’s Lighting Designer Rhys Gaughan, and Filmmaking students set up the camera track.
Head of Modern Ballet, Kerry Livingstone, ensures the shoot’s ballet dancers are perfectly poised while members of the Marketing and Communications team add a few final flourishes, including a last-minute dash with an iron to steam creases from the flowing fabric draped over the stairs.
Orchestrating it all from the stalls is acclaimed photographer Guy Farrow who has worked with everyone from English National Ballet and Vivienne Westwood to Adidas and Nike.
He’s after a ‘dramatic, theatrical and cinematic’ feel to the campaign imagery.
“I love working with performers and artists, they are always so passionate about what they do and this shows in the shots. There is something so imposing yet elegant when you see people on stage. The style is perfect for my look – I just couldn’t say no.” Guy Farrow
Guy gets to work, stopping to view the images on his laptop, while videographers roam the stage, capturing those in-between moments when the students – Jalayne Mitchell, Eve Park, Charlie O’Conor, Andrew Lynch, Gavin Hardie, Ric Castellani and Daisy Mullen-Thomson – and Lecturer in Professional Practice Vanessa Coffey are at rest.
Different stage set-ups are tried, cast positions swapped around, there’s a last minute change of outfit for the cellist, the Snow Queen’s crown keeps slipping and all break into laughter. Lecturer, Vanessa, is adorned with accessories and as the ballet dancers stretch their muscles, the production student comments on how this is the first time he has ever been cast on stage.
RCS Principal, Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, watches from the stalls, and snaps a few photos on his phone. He smiles as he takes in the action on stage.
“There is something magical about this stage, and this conservatoire. There isn’t any other place in Europe where you could bring together students from across all of the performing and production arts under the one roof. This shoot represents what makes RCS so special, so unique – it is in our collaboration and respect for one another as artists.” explains Professor Sharkey.
The day comes to a close, the photographer shouts he has the shot and the cast celebrate on stage. The curtain falls on another spectacular production in the New Athenaeum Theatre and all that’s left to do is dust the glitter from the stage, pack up all the props and wait with anticipation for the final edit.
Meet the Cast
These emerging artists are the stars of this lavish production and represent collaboration, performance, passion and creativity … everything RCS stands for.
Jalayne Mitchell, BMus (Performance)
Charlie O’Conor BA Acting
Andrew Lynch, BA Production Technology and Management
Gavin Hardie, BMus (Traditional Music)
Ric Castellani and Daisy Mullen-Thomson, BA Modern Ballet
From: Japan and England
Eve Park, BA Filmmaking
Vanessa Coffey, Lecturer in Professional Practice
The Finished Result
The prospectus was unveiled in May this year with a concept that goes straight to the heart of the student experience.
A free downloadable app, Zappar, enables bonus content such as additional images and videos to be unlocked on smartphones and tablets, including exclusive alumni interviews from 2020 Oscar-nominated 1917 screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns and multi-award-winning jazz pianist Fergus McCreadie.
Current students from across the disciplines of music, drama, dance, production and film and high-profile graduates including Sex Education’s Ncuti Gatwa, Outlander’s Sam Heughan and mezzo-soprano Svetlina Stoyanova of the Vienna State Opera, take a starring role throughout, through personal interviews and reflections of their time at RCS.
You can download your copy today.