New Zealand’s 32nd Prime Minister David Lange was one of the best-loved. Becoming his country’s youngest leader of the 20th Century at the age of 41. Heading the fourth Labour Government in 1984, which proved to be one of the most reforming administrations in New Zealand’s history with some of the most radical economic changes anywhere in the industrialised world. But it was his nuclear-free legislation that remains his legacy He was a PM from a small Pacific nation, who could stride on the International stage and take on the ‘big boys’…a real David and Goliath story. This was highlighted in the 1985 televised Oxford Union Debate when he opposed the American TV evangelist, Jerry Falwell, arguing the proposition that ‘nuclear weapons are morally indefensible.’ In his winning speech filled with gems, one quote has lodged in my mind, when he told the Rev.Falwell, “I can smell the uranium on your breath as you lean towards me.” A cutting wit and eloquence,his oratory was based on a need to compensate for his clumsiness at school.When he graduated from Law school David turned down lucritive career paths to repesent the most dispossessed members of his community.
I drew this toon of David near the end of his leadership when his party was falling apart and his position was under threat, which eventually lead to his resignation in August 1989. He stayed on in Parliament until 1996 when ill-health forced him to retire. David passed away in 2005, aged 63. Politicians and political cartoonists are not always bossom buddies, so I was pleased he signed this and inscribed ‘One of the best’ on it.
Christened Michelle Louise Andrew`-‘Sheli’ to family and friends, Amber Topaz is known by many labels such as the ‘Burlesque Supernova’ and the ‘Original Yorkshire Tease’. Blessed with a natural singing voice, she studied at the London Studio Centre before appearing in a number of West End musicals, including Les Miserables. But the inconsistency of work lead her to develop new opportunities with her songwriting and comedy skills. While modelling, a photograper, who incidently gave her the stagename, suggested trying burlesque to utilize all her talents. She learnt by ‘osmosis’ she said and for a laugh auditioned for the Whoopee Club in front of a live audience at the infamous Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club in 2005. She was an instant hit and immediately signed up with their agents. GQ magazine described her as ” an explosion of charisma and stage presence unmatched. Between music and songs. Comedy and seduction.” Recently she starred in Miss Nightengale-A Burlesque Musical, playing Maggie, a northern lass who becomes a burlesque dancer in war-torn 1940’s London.
Amber was at the Leicester Square Theatre last week, performing her show Storm In a D Cup so I popped along with the intention of leaving this sketch at the stagedoor for her to sign. But as good fortune would have it she was doing a photo-shoot outside the theatre which is on a busy corridor between the Square and China Town-home of the good fortune cookie. Needless to say it attracted a ..shall we say…person of the perverted persuasion, who lingered back and forth. Added to that I turn up with a drawing , stalking for it to be graphed. This turned out to be a welcome relief for both Amber and her photographer who even took a pic of us together with the drawing.
There’s maybe a dozen actors that I truly admire, some dead at the moment. But very much alive is Tom Courtenay…correction, Sir Tom Courtenay. He was knighted by the Queen in 2001. On a much earlier visit to the Palace (1965 to be precise) at a reception for Doctor Zhivago in which a not-yet-knighted Tom played Pasha Antipov, Her Majesty apparently noticed his shyness and was said to have remarked,”Look at him…and to think he’s just lead a revolution.” My favourite film and play in which the shy-yet -to -be sir starred is Ray Harwood’s The Dresser. There’s a ‘Sir’ in it, but Tom didn’t play him. He played Norman, an ageing actor’s personal assistant who struggles to keep ‘Sir’s’ life together. He played Norman right from the start. The 1980 stage version transferred from Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre to the Queen’s Theatre in London’s West End before moving to Broadway the following year and earning Tom a Tony Award nom. Two years later the film , directed by Peter Yates was released, earning five Academy Award nominations, including one for Tom and for Albert Finney as ‘Sir’. They were both also nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe, with Tom picking up the later. Despite his cinematic accolades, Tom prefers his first passion-the stage, which he has excelled in equal measure. One of his solo performances is in Pretending To Be Me, based on the letters and writing of poet Philip Larkin. I drew this sketch of the now-Sir Tom and was planning to ask him to sign it at the British Film Institute earlier this month. He was doing a Q&A after the screening of his latest film 45 Years with Charlotte Rampling in which both won acting Silver Bears at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. I didn’t however, so I posted it to him and he kindly sent it back adding a compliment.
This is a surrogate sketch for the one I really wanted Toni Collette to sign. I had originally drawn her in her role as Jennifer when she returned to Broadway, after a 14 year absence last spring in Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses. I knew Toni was an accomplished Australian actress, nominated for every award imaginable (and winner of a few), but only just found out she’s an equally accomplished musician and lead singer in the band The Finish. Unfortunately in my usual haste, my antiquated filing and protection system in my even more antiquated bag assigned the original sketch to a piece of amateur origami…similar to the Royal Mail sometimes when delivering returned goodies through my small mail slot. ( and strangely as I type this the art of postal paper-folding has just been practiced through the said slot). Suffice to say it was not in a fit state for sig-nifying. The suggogate was quickly sketched in time to catch Toni at the Miss You Already Premiere in London last week,where she not only signed, but dedicated it for me.Second sketch, first-rate star!
And now for a bit of functional grammar. I apologise in advance, but I just had to state the obvious. ‘Drew’ is the simple past tense of ‘draw’. It’s also a noun and a verb.I have connected both. I drew Drew-a short sentence that contains a subject and a doing word. Drew Barrymore was the noun and I did the verb thing. Drew also drew her autograph on my drawing which I drew of Drew. In drawing the line is a key element-the agent of direction, I’ve heard it called. Drew comes from a long and distinguished line of Hollywood stage and screen illuminati, from Lionel, Ethel,John. John again, this time Jr to Drew and beyond. That’s a lot of DNA to draw on, starting with her breakthrough BAFTA-nominated role as Gertie in Steven Spielberg’s ET: The Extra-Terrestial to her most recent film Miss You Already, which had it’s Premiere in London this month. She also writes, directs and produces-it’s in the blood. Along the way she’s picked up her fair share of recognition, including the Golden Globe and SAG Awards for playing ‘Little Edie’ in the TV movie Grey Garden in 2009.
I drew this drawing based on a younger Drew, which I felt was more representational of her well-known facial features. When you see her in the flesh at the Prem, she still has those features. She said “Oh” and smiled then signed. Some collectors were not happy with her ‘scribble signature’, preferring a fuller name, but I like the distinctive shape. It’s a quick, simple, initialisation, forming a decorative ‘heart’ monogram. Drew can certainly draw!
The cello is a member of the violin family…a very big member of the violin family. Although not the biggest, it is the instrument that is the reason for celebrated classical cellist Natalie Clein”s biggest pet hate, “When I take my cello on a plane, people always ask why I don’t play the flute.” The Brit Award winner isn’t a flautist, she plays one of the biggest members of the violin family and plays it exceptionally well…’mesmerisingly’ and ‘passionately’ well according to The Times. The said cello is a ‘Simpson’ Guadagnini, made in 1777 by the ‘Leonardo Da Vinci of cello-makers, JB Guadagnini. “I own a small part of it along with 20 other people. It’s like a child, you never really own it, you’re it’s guardian for a while.” she said in a Guardian interview. Speaking of a child, Natalie’s daughter was born last year, so now the large amount of travel makes it more interesting on planes, ‘baby in the front,cello on the back.’
I drew this sketch and left it at the Cadogan Hall in London, where Natalie was performing her latest recording, Saint-Saens: Cello Concerto No 1 with the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra earlier this year.
The legendary Rocky Horror Show returned to the West End for a short season at the Playhouse Theatre which ends today, ahead of a UK Tour. Creator Richard O’Brien also returned, this time as the Narrator. A firm favourite with theatre-goers, the Christopher Luscombe directed production was extended by an extra week due to demand. Included in the run was a one-off charity performance with special guests, including Stephen Fry and Emma Brunton in aid of Amnesty International,broadcast live throughout the UK and Europe. Olivier Award winner David Bedella also returned as the lead Frank’n’ Furter after performing in various Rocky productions between 2006 to 2010. He is joined by Ben Forster as Brad, who played the role in the 40th Anniversary UK Tour and Haley Flaherty completes the many happy returns as Janet, after playing her in Singapore, NZ and the UK Tours. All three will not be part of the upcoming British tour.
The show does attract a loyal and dedicated fan-base, who usually gather at the stage door in a variety of cross-dressing guises and nominal drapery in homage to the production. I spent a little bit of time amongst them over the fortnight, securing graphs on my sketches. At times, more conservative attire made me the oddball and the only one with drawings to sign, even odder. But that’s what the show’s all about-accepting people’s differences and it certainly makes a difference to your day when you harvest a full set of signed sketches.