Drawing: Robert Sean Leonard in To Kill a Mockingbird

robert sean leonard

One of my favourite films is Peter Weir’s Dead Poet’s Society, which Robert Sean Leonard features as the tortured Neil Perry who discovers his love of theatre and gets the lead in a local production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “If I had my way, I would just do theatre, if it paid better,” Robert said in an interview prior to taking on the iconic role of Maycomb County lawyer Atticus Finch in Christopher Sergel’s  stage adaption of Lee Harper’s seminal novel,To Kill A Mockingbird in the Open Air Theatre’s production in London’s Regent Theatre two years ago. He reprised the role when the production moved indoors to the Barbican for a month run, which finished last weekend. Initially he didn’t think it would work as a play, in fact he didn’t know the stage version existed. “The book and the film are so good, why do a play?” he said. Plus there was the ‘shadow’ of Gregory Peck’s Oscar-winning portrayal in the 1962 film and taking on the role scared him. But he admitted he was wrong and told TimeOut it was “one my favourite things I have ever done.” It was favourite with the critics as well. BritishTheatre.com said,”perfection,complete with slightly crumpled lined three piece suite…it’s a magical performance that makes every other cast member’s job that much easier.” A three-time Tony Award nominee, Robert won in 2001 for his role as A.E.Houseman in Tom Stoppard’s The Invention of Love. While this is testament to his theatre prowess and love for the stage over the screen, he was also part of the very successful TV series House,M.D for eight seasons, playing Hugh Laurie’s stoic sidekick Dr James Wilson.

Robert kindly signed my sketch for me on the last performance day at the Barbican.

Drawing: Butley at The Duchess Theatre

Butley

A summer’s day in London, and what better way to spend it than taking in a matinee of a West End play. Some may say there are better things to do on a summer’s day, but this is London and it was raining, (we had summer the weekend before). I chose the late Simon Grey’s dark comedy Butley at the Duchess. University lecturer, T.S.Eliot scholar and perpetual drunk Ben Butley is having a monumentally bad day, so bad, he’s making sure everyone else has a worse one. His trusty arsenal of mischievous irony and gleeful troublemaking prove to be the weapons of his own self-destruction. In the title role was the charismatic Dominic West, ably supported by a superb cast, Paul McGann, Amanda Drew, Martin Hutson, Penny Downie, Emma Huddleston and Cai Brigden. Last year I posted a couple of sketches  Dominic and Paul signed, but this black biro drawing included all seven cast members. It is,however, difficult to get stuff signed while inside the theatre watching the play, although I always think the best time to get everyone would be during the curtain call. Alas,not a plan shared by theatre management. Multiple cast can prove logistically difficult for obvious reasons, none more so than when they all leave at the same time it’s like trying to collect marbles rolling on a glass floor. The Duchess Theatre does have one thing going for the autograph aficionado, there’s only one entry and exit point, (as far as I know) to the left of the main doors and almost under cover, albeit under a leaking veranda. I had drawn this sketch earlier based on the promotional material adorning the theatre and managed to get it signed by all, either going in or coming out in  sig-friendly file. Even the late afternoon sun decided to shine on this successful summer’s saturday..momentarily.

 

Drawing: Samantha Barks as Eponine in Les Miserables

Samantha Barks
“I love Eponine-she’s one of the best roles in Les Miserables,” said Samantha Barks. She should know, it’s the heartbreaking and tragic role that propelled the Isle of Man actress into the international spotlight. She played Eponine on the West End stage, at the Queen’s Theatre from 21 June 2010 until 18 June the following year. The show’s impresario producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh chose her for the 25th Anniversary show at the O2 in 2010 and it was he who announced her role in the Tom Hooper helmed film version. Sam had just finished performing Nancy in Oliver at Manchester’s palace Theatre when he joined her on stage for the curtain call and told her she had the part. “It was the biggest surprise of my life,” she recalled, “I was completely speechless.” When asked in an interview for Movieline how many times she had sung Eponine’s signature song ‘On My Own’, Sam said, “That’s hard-I’m rubbish at math,” before listing her history with the tune. The writer’s  quick calculation came to 400+, but that didn’t include all the times as a child singing it into a hairbrush in front of a mirror, wanting to be Eponine.

Although I have meet Sam on numerous occasions in London at theatre venues, film premieres and award ceremonies, I actually sent this  sketch to her while she was in Oliver in Manchester, probably just after Sir Cameron gave her the good news-a good time to catch her me thinks!

Drawing: Kristin Scott Thomas in The Audience

Kristen Scott Thomas

Dame Kristin Scott Thomas completed her three-month role as Queen Elizabeth ll in Peter Morgan’s hit production The Audience, directed by Stephen Daldry at London’s Apollo Theatre on Saturday evening. The play received it’s world premiere next door at the Gielgud in February 2013, with Dame Helen Mirren in the lead role. It’s inspired by the Queen’s private weekly meetings with all of Britain’s Prime Ministers during her six decades on the throne. This quick revival was updated to include the recent UK General Election, opening two days before polling. Apparently auditions were held for an ‘Ed Miliband’ just in case, but in response to the results, Morgan rewrote the scene between the Monarch and David Cameron (Mark Dexter). Coinciding with this production, Dame Helen was reprising the royal role at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway. It finished it’s season at the end of June, with Helen winning every major award, including the Tony. Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph wrote, “Scott Thomas is a match for Mirren,’  a sentiment matched by the majority of critics and theatre-goers alike. Just weeks before embarking on her portrayal, Kristin had first-hand experience of her subject when she meet the Queen to receive her damehood for services to drama. Kristin recalled the conversation in an interview afterwards and said the Queen asked her what she was doing next. After being told she replied, ‘It would be quite q challenge.”

Waiting at stage doors on final nights can be drawn out affairs, so I didn’t have my drawing out when Dame Kristin was super quick to appear to a sizeable gathering of her ‘subjects’, She chatted amongst them and signed items which gave me time to get it ready and queue for the royal siggy of approval.

Drawing: Andrew Garfield in Death of a Salesman

Andrew Garfield

Characters in conflict make great drawing subjects and Andrew Garfield was reported to have said, “I’m drawn to conflicted characters,” in the New York Times, while performing the role of Biff Loman in Mike Nichol’s revival of Arthur Miller’s modern classic Death of A Salesman at the Barrymore Theatre on New York’s Great White Way in 2012.

And you don’t get a more tortured soul and role than the character of Biff Loman, the eldest son of the delusional salesman Willy Loman, played by the late, great, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

“It’s a wrenching performance, exquisitely calibrated… and the final confrontation, in which the tarnished golden boy tries with desperate futility to make Willy face reality is so devastating that it’s not uncommon to hear sobs in the theatre,” wrote David Rooney in the New York Times. It was a performance that earned Andrew a Tony Award nomination.

Born in Los Angeles but raised in England, Andrew’s short but already impressive stage and screen career had its international breakthrough in 2010 with David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant chronicle of the birth of Facebook, The Social Network, as Eduardo Saverin the most ethical of the operation who was shut out by his co-founders . It was a role that earned him multiple awards attention including Golden Glboe and BAFTA nomination and it was the performance that persuaded Mike Nicols to cast him as Biff, stating “What you see is Andrew’s enormous emotional equipment.”

Sending stuff for signing to Broadway theatres is always a hit and miss affair, so I planned to get Andrew to sign this sketch of him as Biff at the Gala screening of The Amazing Spiderman at London’s Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square at the end of June 2012, after he completed his Salesman run.

Positioning myself at the drop-off point allowed me to get Andrew early as he got out of the car and came directly over to us before the PAs  tend to lead the talent away to do press.

Andrew usually has a rapid, minimal sig-even more than this one, so I was very pleased he stopped for a chat and to get this dedication and a more ‘extended’ graph, after which the pushy PA reminded him of the time constraints, to which he retorted, “I’m already using my abbreviated autograph!’ but accelerated his walk after that and his along with his sig.

Drawing: Dawn Steele in Volcano

Dawn Steele

Scottish actress Dawn Steele returned to the stage in Noel Coward’s ‘lost’ play Volcano which completed a UK tour with a limited six-week run at London’s Vaudeville Theatre in the Autumn of 2012. promoted as a ‘tempestuous drama bubbling with scandal’, it was never performed in Coward’s lifetime and this is believed to be the first major production of the play and it’s West End debut. Written in 1956 when the playwright was suffering the dubious status of being Britain’s first tax exile, it is the product of his laid-back lifestyle, living in a chalet on a hilltop in Jamaica. Crucially it contains a wicked portrait of his equally famous neighbour, James Bond author Ian Feming. “Smouldering libidos among the idle rich,”was one description. Set on the fictional Caribbean Island of Samola,the plot revolves around a love affair between widowed Adela (Jenny Seagrove) and philandering guy (Jason Durr). Enter Dawn, as the acid-tongued wife, Melissa who turns up to retrieve her cheating husband. Best known for playing ‘sexy Lexie’ in the BBC’s Monarch of the Glen,the Independent’s Paul Taylor said one of the highlights was the sparring between Adela and the “witty, glintingly malignant Melissa.” the West End Wingers called Dawn’s performance “pleasingly acidic.”

Dawn signed this sketch and added a kind dedication at the theatre.

Drawing: Hayley Atwell in The Faith Machine

Hayley Atwell

English actress Hayley Atwell made her West End debut as Catherine in A View From The Bridge at the Duke of York’s in 2009, earning an Olivier award nomination. In September 2011 she appeared in the world premiere of Alexia Kaye Campbell’s third play The Faith Machine on the Jerwood stage at the Royal Court Theatre. Directed by Jamie Lloyd. it’s based on the premise that making choices has consequences. The Standard’s Henry Hutchings used the phrase ‘karmic boomerang’ as an appealing way to convey the notion that one’s choices have inevitable repercussions and must reconcile the seductions of different belief and value systems. Having faith might seem reasonable when you are conscious of it’s unreasonable nature. In this play, Hayley played Sophie, an inspirational journalist who suddenly hurls her bewildered lover, Tom (Kyle Soller) a choice, right at the beginning: either he quits being an advertising exec for a corrupt pharmaceutical multinational or she’s leaving. The choice he makes and the events of that day changes their lives forever. Quentin Letts in The Daily Mail called it a “breakthrough in the religion versus atheism battle. In fact it’s almost enough to make one say ‘Hallelujah’.”

I haven’t had much luck with sketches  being returned from  the Royal Court and Sloane Square is on the outer fringes of my graph-hunting territory. As one of the lines in the play noted,”The real world is cruel and harsh and full of compromise.” A little overstated for my situation, but compromise I did. I put my faith in Hayley’s London agents and left it with them-a choice that had excellent consequences.