David Bryant

David Bryant

Whilst watching the Glasgow Commonwealth Games yesterday, I was reminded of some of its legends, as the BBC punctuated its coverage with mini profiles of its famous past participants. Among them was Englishman David Bryant, the bowls icon.

Lawn bowls as opposed to opposed to bowling of the ten pin variety in an ‘alley’. It involves rolling biased balls towards a smaller ball called a ‘jack’ or ‘kitty’. Distinctively British, dating back to the 13th Century. In fact, the game was banned by King and Parliament, fearing it would jeopardise the practice of archery which was important in battle. Given their resemblance to cannon balls, they may have been better to use them in battle instead of arrow… maybe they did. Regardless, in 1541, Henry VIII ordered that artificers, labourers, apprentices, servants and the like were forbidden to play bowls at anytime except Christmas, and then only in their master’s home and presence. A penalty of 6 shillings and 8 pence was the fine.

Anyway, enough of that and back to more recent history. David was perfect for a caricature, wearing his white cap, pipe-smoking and with his distinctive delivery style with his raised leg. The English teacher was the master of the rink. Some would say god.

Definitely one of the greatest, if not the greatest, exponents of the sport, along with Bowls Englands’s current CEO Tony Allcock. Together they won six world indoor pairs titles and individually too many to mention. David collected five Commonwealth Golds dating back to Perth in 1962. I haven’t checked if the King’s edict’s been revoked. If not, not a bad haul for an illegal activity.

At the World Championships in Auckland in 1988 (where David won the singles title and was runnerup in the pairs) he found time in between games to sign my caricature.

AlfRED

Alfred Molina

Alred Molina played celebrated abstract artist Mark Rothko in John Logan’s RED in London and New York. The play opened at the Donmar Warehouse in December 2009 to excellent reviews and sold out performances before moving to Broadway in March 2010, winning six Tony Award including Best Play.

Marcus Rothkowitz emigrated with his family to the US from Russia as a boy in 1903. He became a central figure in the postwar American abstract expressionists, the so-called New York School. The group, who couldn’t really draw, also included Barnett Newman, Clifford Still, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock. They sought refuge in abstractionism to camouflage their modest artists talents.

RED revolves around Rothko’s last decade of his life when his palette reduced dramatically from glowing oranges and yellows to the sombre shades of red and black – banal work on a large canvas!

“There is only one thing I fear in life, my friend… one day the black will swallow the red.”

At the centre of it is his undertaking of the Four Seasons restaurant commission in Manhattan’s Seagram Building in which he famously declared that his paintings would “put  all the rich bastards off their food.” In the end, due to his moral conflict of interest, he returned the $35,000 advance and refused to have his work hung in the restaurant.

Alfred signed my ‘representational impressionist’ piece at the Donmar in January 2010. Unlike Rothko who experimented with a lot of mediums, including glue and eggs, I stuck to more conventional rendering materials such as black biro , crayons and a felt tip pen. I did allow colour to add impact and reinforce the play’s ttitle. In this case ‘red swallows the black!’

Tamsin G

tamsin greig

Tamsin Greig said she was inspired to become an actor going to rehearsals of school plays… because it got her out of science and the only other thing she was good at was trampolining which didn’t seem to have much of a future in it.

In 2010, Tamsin played Diane, a ferociously ambitious agent in The Little Dog Laughed, alongside Gemma Arterton, Rupert Friend and Harry Lloyd at the Garrick Theatre in London. By all accounts she stole the show, some critics even said “saved it”. She had all the best lines.

In fact, the play is more a vehicle for Diane’s character. As Michael Bilington calls it, “the play depends on an ingenious imbroglio. Diane… this power-dressed female Machiavel.”

“Tamsin Greig dominates as the lethally sharp agent, detonating every line with killer punch and timing.” Said The Daily Express.

She was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress (having previously won in 2007 for Much Ado About Nothing) and won the WhatsOnStage Theatregoers Choice Award. Tamsin is known for doing both dramatic and Comedic roles, although the latter generally cause problems. Sh has admitted to ‘corpsing’ which is British theatrical slang for unintentionally breaking character by laughing.

When I looked at this sketch, which Tamsin signed in February 2010, I thought ‘her hands are disproportionally larger”. Taking into account some foreshortening with the left. So I looked at a number of photos of her and she does have large hands and long fingers! Art indeed imitated life. That must have been the same for Michelangelo when he was sculpting the the David statue.

Sir Trev

Trevor Nunn

Sir Trevor Nunn is the Knight I would want to spend a day with. His list of productions include Les Miserables, Cats, Chess, Sunset Boulevard, Starlight Express, Piaf, Aspects of Love, A Little Night Music, not to mention just about every play by the Bard. In fact, it would be quicker to list what he hasn’t done. Not to mention his list of achievements and awards, far too numerous for this small space.

Some critics consider him the finest and most versatile theatre director in the world. He was one of the theatrical icons I always wanted to meet. Since living in London over the past five and a bit years, our paths have crossed on many occasions – all of which are memorable (to me).

Sir Trevor is the kind of person you can stop in the street (without security reminding you of your mortality) and ‘chew the fat’. He has always been very friendly and generous with his time and comments. He walks a lot around London. I remember waiting at the lights in Shaftesbury Avenue and he was beside me, so we walked and chatted.

“Hi, Sir Trevor, how’s rehearsal for Birdsong going?” I would say.

“I’m going there now,” as we both headed towards the Comedy Theatre.

He’s always wearing his denims – something he has been doing since 1961. Elizabeth Grice in an interview with Sir Trevor earlier this year in The Telegraph mentioned this fact in connection with his youthfulness. She said of the 74 year old: “if I mistype him as 47 it seems to make more sense… his thick, dark hair, also c. 1961, is still, improbably thick and dark. He might be the scruffy boy who has strayed in through the stage door to get autographs.” Now, that sounds familiar!

I drew this quick ink sketch which he signed for me at the front door of the Theatre Royal Haymarket on the opening night of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead on a balmy June evening in 2011.

 

Send in the Clowns

A Little Night Music

One of my favourite songs is ‘Send in the Clowns’ from Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 musical A Little Night Music. I’m not sure why I like it – the haunting melody, the lyrics or maybe as a political cartoonist it’s simply metaphorical. Sondheim that it was about fools and foolishness.

It’s the show’s big number – a ballad from Act II in which the character Desiree reflects on the ironies and disappointments of her life after her marriage proposal is declined. The song became a major pop hit when first Judy Collins recorded it in England, then Frank Sinatra heard it and also recorded it. It won the Grammy in 1976 for Song of the Year. Since then it seems that every person who sings has recorded it, including Barbra Streisand, Shirley Bassey, Olivia Newton-John, Elaine Paige…. even Krusty the Clown of The Simpsons.

Sir Trevor Nunn’s 2009 production – the third London revival – started life at the Menier Chocolate Factory before transferring to the Garrick Theatre. The wonderful Hannah Waddingham played Desiree, the touring thesp, self-absorbed, once-successful actress who rekindles her love affair with a benign middle aged lawyer, now married to an 18 year old.

Kelly Price played Charlotte, the tolerant wife of Desiree’s lover Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm. Both ewere nominated for Olivier Awards. Getting this sketch signed was a bit of a mission. I eventually caught up with Kelly after a performance of The Misanthrope at the Comedy Theatre in March 2010 and Hannah signed in August at the Regent’s Park Open Theatre where she was appearing in Into The Woods.

Jackie O

Lydia Leonard

In 2010 British actress Lydia Leonard played the role of Jackie Onassis in Martin Sherman’s play Onassis at the Novello Theatre in London, alongside Robert Lindsay in the title role.

The ex-Mrs John F. Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis, Greek shipping’s biggest player. “I don’t think I’d have like her, had I met her,” Lydia told a journalist. “My sympathies lie entirely with Maria Callas,” (with whom the shipping magnate had a doomed affair – Maria called it ‘Marilyn Monroe plays Ophelia’).

“She would put on this voice – breathy and saccharine – which made her seem stupid. She absolutely wasn’t. She was intellectual, manipulative and enigmatic.”

Hanging around the Novello stage door, which has zilch cover, in the middle of winter is no fun, but the Onassis cast were. I drew a few sketches - mostly quick montages with the soft 4B lead – to capture the characters energy. It took a few visits in rain, hail and sign, but a very pleasant way to start 2011.

Lydia is currently playing Anne Boleyn in a double bill of Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies at the Aldwych.

Jenny Agutter

Jenny AgutterBritish actress Jenny Agutter won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role as Jill Mason in the film Equus in 1977. Thirty years later she appeared in the stage version of Peter Shafffer’s most powerful play at the Gielgud Theatre in London alongside Richard Friffiths and Daniel Radcliffe. This time she played Hesther Saloman, the magistrate who brings Alan Strang (Radcliffe) to Martin Dysart (Griffiths) the psychiatrist, for blinding six horses.

Many moons ago I directed Equus for Invercargill Repertory back in New Zealand. When I sent Jenny this portrait sketch to sign at the Gielgud in 2007 I mentioned it in the accompanying note. She not only signed the drawing, but wrote a lovely letter about the productions. I had to the privilege of meeting her briefly when she attended the Captain America: A Winter Soldier premiere earlier this year in London, which confirmed my impression of her as one of the most enchanting people in the business.