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Apollo Theatre
Photograph: Harvey AspellApollo Theatre

Nine photographs of London’s stage doors that will fuel your theatre nostalgia

A London photographer has captured their charm and mystery

By
Rose Johnstone
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On a scale of one to 'I laid out my old ticket stubs to create a sad little shrine,' how much do you miss theatre? If you’re caning 'Hamilton' on repeat on Disney+ and the mere memory of tiny West End ice cream tubs brings a tear to your eye, then we’ve got another way for you to fuel that theatre nostalgia while you wait for lockdown to ease.

'Stage Door' is a photography project by London-based photographer Harvey Aspell. Started in 2018, the series at the time was a way for Aspell to capture their mystique. 'I’ve always been attracted to the theatre’s stage doors. They’re like the unsung heroes, each with their own characteristics,' says Aspell. 'They are often inconspicuous and understated, however behind them lies a bustling atmosphere of excitement, nerves, and hard work.'

But now, as curtains remain closed and spotlights dimmed, the photographs have taken on new significance. 'The photos have taken on a different meaning in these strange times, evoking nice memories for many,' explains Aspell. 'To me, the doors are like symbols of hope now, a reminder that the community will thrive again.'

Unsurprisingly, there’s been a resurgence of interest in the series in the past few months. We've pulled together some of our favourite shots, and asked Aspell about some of the stories behind them. Like what you see? Aspell has created a limited number of prints available to buy – DM him on Instagram to find out more.

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1. Adelphi Theatre

'Having worked front of house at The Adelphi Theatre for a couple of years I got a real sense of the theatre community and the passion that lies within. Of course, it was the stage door where I entered through every day for work and so the shots I had taken up until that point only made more sense to me – I was capturing portals to a world of excitement.'

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2. Apollo Theatre

'I really like the Apollo Theatre stage door shot. It feels very New York City to me. I think it’s the iron staircase and balcony. It has a certain charm about it. Also, I love the worn lettering. I bet that sign has seen some stars in its time. This is the one shot I have hanging up at home.'

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3. The Old Vic

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4. Savoy Theatre

'I only include people in the frame if it adds a nice layer to the story – a good example being the the Savoy Theatre shot – Who is that man? What is he holding? Is he in a hurry?'

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5. St. Martin's Theatre

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6. Wyndham's Theatre

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7. Dominion Theatre

'I’ve attracted lots of curious looks from security, production staff and passers-by who probably wonder why I’m shooting at empty doors. Just recently shooting The Dominion Theatre, I noticed the lights would switch off every time I went to point and shoot – I imagined someone was having a bit of a laugh on the other side.'

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8. Noël Coward Theatre

'I hadn’t planned to shoot the Noel Coward, but when I saw Aiden Turner was signing autographs at the stage door, I got caught in the hustle and bustle. The view I got through the arms of an onlooking fan was begging for a photo.'

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9. National Theatre

Get your theatre fix with our guide to the best shows streaming online right now.

When are London's big musicals and theatre shows re-opening (well, in theory at least) in 2021? Find out here.

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