Drawing: Spike Lee

Autographed drawing of director Spike Lee

‘Spike Lee Joints’ typically refers to the acclaimed American director’s films. His latest joint, BLACKKKLANSMAN is regarded as his “most accessible and narratively satisfying movie in over a decade.” Critics have called it a return to form for the socially conscious auteur, winning the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and being nominated for the Palm d’Or. It is based on the 2014 memoirs of Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department who sets out to infiltrate and expose the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

Among his many accolades, Spike has received both an Honorary BAFTA and Oscar, with the later citing “a champion of independent film and an inspiration to young filmmakers.”

After Cannes, Spike attended a screening of BLACKKKLANSMAN at the BFI in London followed by a Q+A. I had hoped to get my sketch signed at the event, but he arrived and apologised, said he had to quickly get into the auditorium, but would see us afterwards. I was unable to wait so I sent the drawing to his film company in Brooklyn, New York and it came back signed and dedicated.

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Drawing: Rose Matafeo – Horndog

Autographed drawing of Rose Matafeo in Horndog at the Soho Theatre on London's West End

Kiwi comic Rose Matafeo won the top comedy gong at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival last month with her show HORNDOG. The 26 year-old New Zealander of Samoan and Scottish/Croatian heritage, who has been honing her standup skills since the age of 15 is only the fifth woman to take the coveted Best Show Award.

The ad for HORNDOG reads that Rose ‘has kissed 10 men in her life, AKA she’s a total horndog.’ It chronicles her barely functioning love life and mid-20’s angst. Her definition of ‘horniness’ is “girls putting 100% into something that’s not worth it.” They’re looking for a passionate relationship rather than love. As a film-mad, geeky teenager she had no luck with boys, so when dating happened she became obsessed. “Go hard or go home” was her MO.

In his review, the Guardian’s Brian Logan wrote, “…a volcanic eruption of standup… Matafeo’s neurosis, intelligence and flamboyant sense of her own ridiculousness make her a near-perfect comedian.”

I caught up with the charismatic Rose after her second show at London’s Soho Theatre where she’s performing HORNDOG until the end of month and she signed my drawing.

Drawing: Andrew Polec in Bat Out Of Hell

Autographed drawing of Andrew Polec in Bat Out Of Hell at the Dominion Theatre on London's West End

After fronting the show since its inception, Andrew Polec left the Jim Steinman award- winning musical juggernaut BAT OUT OF HELL this month during its residency at London’s Dominion Theatre.

Playing the rebellious Strat, leader of the Lost gang in a post-cataclysmic city, Philadelphia-born Andrew, who completed a Masters Degree at Brown University before moving to New York, joined the production of BAT OUT OF HELL at the workshop stage, taking the lead for its world premiere at Manchester’s Opera House in February, which transferred to the London Coliseum followed by a run in Toronto before settling into its West End home in April this year.

BAT OUT OF HELL is a jukebox musical rooted in Meat Loaf’s freakishly successful 1977 album, which sold 43 million copies and spawned a multi platinum sequel in 1993. In his four-star RadioTimes review, Tony Peters called the show ” bonkers, but strangely irresistible… a thrilling assault on the senses.”

Andrew signed my drawing at the Dominion stage door after his final Saturday matinee.

Drawing: Vanessa Kirby in Julie

Autographed drawing of Vanessa Kirby in Julie at the National Theatre Lyttelton Stage in London

Vanessa Kirby’s impressive stage career is being matched by her latest screen appearances, in particular her mesmerising two-year role as Princess Margaret in Peter Morgan’s Netflick series THE CROWN, for which she won this year’s Supporting Actress TV BAFTA Award, after being nominated last year. She also collected an Emmy nomination.

She can also be seen as White Widow in the latest MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE blockbuster, FALLOUT opposite Tom Cruise. In 2106 Variety labelled her “the most outstanding stage actress of her generation, capable of the most unexpected choices.”

Vanessa signed a sketch for me in 2104 at the Young Vic in London, where she was playing Stella in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE with Gillian Anderson and Ben Foster. She won the WhatsOnStage Award for her supporting role, which is judged by the public.

Vanessa has just completed the season of Polly Stenham’s JULIE, an adaption of August Strindberg’ MISS JULIE at the National Theatre, in which she played the title role. Paul Taylor in his Independent review wrote, “Vanessa Kirby shines.”

She signed this sketch for me a few weeks ago at the stage door.

Drawing: Naomi Osaka

Autographed drawing of tennis player Naomi Osaka

This week 20 year-old Naomi Osaka beat her idol Serena Williams in straight sets to win the US open final and become the first person from Japan to win a Grand Slam singles title. Born, ironically in Osaka to a Japanese mother and Haitian-American father, the family moved to the United States, when Naomi was three, where she now lives with dual citizenship. Her father registered her with the Japanese Tennis Association when she started her tennis career, turning pro in 2013.

This year has proved to be a watershed year for the strong-serving, aggressive base-liner, winning her first Grand Slam as well as the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and seeing her ranking rise to Number 7 in the world. Naomi was only a year old when Serena won her first Grand Slam in 1999. She wrote a project about her at school, and always wanted to be like her. “Serena is the main reason why I started playing tennis,” she said.

Often, when she’s in a difficult spot during a match, Naomi will think, “What would Serena do?” Naomi says it’s a dream to play her, which she has done twice this year, winning both encounters – the second at the Miami Open in March, when Serena was returning to the circuit after the birth of her first daughter.

Naomi signed my sketch at a WTA pre-Wimbledon event on London’s Southbank a few months ago.

Drawing: Steph Parry in Mamma Mia!

Autographed drawing of Steph Parry in Mamma Mia at the Novello Theatre on London's West End

Three months ago understudy Steph Parry made headlines when she stepped in to save a neighbouring West End production with only eighteen minutes notice. Early in the first act of MAMMA MIA!, lead Caroline Deverill in the role of Donna Sheridan injured her calf muscle, with no understudy cover.

A block away, at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, understudy for 42ND STREET, Steph was sitting in the dressing room eating carrots and hummus when she was asked to pop over to continue the role of Donna in front of a sell-out audience. Steph had understudied the part five years earlier and reprised the role last year on a cruise ship. The audience reaction was euphoric when she took to the stage, greeted with a huge round of applause.

Life imitated art, the premise of 42ND STREET is an understudy’s rise from showgirl to star. As one observer noted, replacing ‘We’re In The Money’ for ‘ Money, Money, Money.’ After understudying six-and-a-half years ago for the Mrs Wilkinson role in BILLY ELLIOT, the three female parts in MAMMA MIA! and Madame Morrible in WICKED, Steph finally landed a lead role, replacing LuLu as Dorothy Brook in 42ND STREET from 9 July until last Saturday.

She signed this ‘Donna’ sketch at the Theatre Royal stage door on Saturday, before her last lead performance, returning to her understudy duties.

Drawing: Laura Rogers in Pressure

Autographed drawing of Laura Rogers in Pressure at the Ambassadors Theatre on London's West End

Welsh-born actress Laura Rogers returned to the West End in June in David Haig’s wartime play PRESSURE, which concludes its run at the Ambassadors Theatre this Saturday.

Born in Swansea, Laura left at the age of eighteen to attend RADA in London and has been based in the capital since. She was last seen in THE 39 STEPS at the Criterion Theatre in 2011, having appeared in four productions at Shakespeare’s Globe, including the role of Lady Macbeth. Laura is also well-known to television and film viewers, having featured in such high profile shows as DOCTOR WHO and HOLBY CITY and her role as Sheena Williams in the ITV drama BAD GIRLS.

PRESSURE is based on the true story of Royal Air Force meteorologist James Stagg, and Operation Overlord, particularly the weather-forecasting for the D-Day landings during the Second World War, advising the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Laura plays Kay Summersby, Ike’s driver and later secretary and confidante. It’s a role she originated for the 2014 World Premiere at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh and has been with the production ever since, which has included at transfer to the Chichester Festival Theatre, a National tour, London’s Park Theatre and the current West End residency at the Ambassadors.

She signed this drawing for me after a Saturday evening performance a few weeks ago.

Drawing: Malcolm Sinclair in Pressure

Autographed drawing of Malcolm Sinclair in Pressure at the Ambassadors Theatre on London's West End

English actor Malcolm Sinclair has played an extensive number of film, television, radio and theatre roles since the 1980’s, including his Olivier-nominated portrayal of Major Miles Flack in the Donmar Warehouse 2001 revival of PRIVATES ON PARADE.

His latest is General Dwight D.Eisenhower in the West End transfer of David Haig’s PRESSURE, at the Ambassadors Theatre. The war weather play with its multifunctional metaphorical title is a superb dramatisation of the preparations for Operation Overlord
and the D-Day landings during WWll. It centres on the tension between wartime meteorologists, Scotsman James Stagg ( David Haig) and American Irving P. Klick ( Philip Cairns), who are advising ‘Ike’, the chain-smoking supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, on the weather forecast for the Normandy invasion.

Malcom, like David, has been with the production since it originated at the Lyceum in Edinburgh in 2014, moving to the Chichester Festival Theatre before a National tour followed by a run at London’s Park Theatre before finally settling into the West End where it finishes this weekend.

In her 2014 Review for the Evening Standard, Fiona Mountford wrote, “Cracking performance from Malcolm Sinclair. He is an actor of commanding presence who can chill a theatre merely by walking on stage and he does that here.” In his Guardian review for this year’s West End transfer, Michael Billington said, “Malcolm Sinclair is exemplary as Eisenhower.”

I caught up with Malcolm when he arrived for last Saturday’s matinee I addressing him as ‘Mr President’ in reference to his character’s elevation to the US Presidency, not knowing at the time that he was also the former President of the Actors Equity for the past eight years. Either way he signed my Ike sketch.

Drawing: Andy Zaltzman

Autographed drawing of comedian Andy Zaltzman

“Probably one of the finest satirical comedians this country’s ever produced,” is how Time Out describes English satirist Andy Zaltzman. He has firmly established himself in the vanguard of British comedy with his unique brand of political satire with a style that centres around verbal dexterity and an extensive use of the pun, especially the ‘pun runs’.

Andy has been performing at the Edinburgh Fringe since 1999 and has worked extensively with John Oliver. In 2004 they began hosting the POLITICAL ANIMAL stand-up show which Andy hosted solo from 2006, transferring to BBC Radio 4. From October 2007 until June 2016 Andy and John co-hosted the weekly satirical comedy podcast THE BUGLE. John left due to other commitments, and now Andy has a rotating group who share the hosting duties.

He is also a huge cricket fan, doing guest commentary on a variety of formats and contributes to a regular blog on CRICINFO. I took the opportunity to meet him at the Soho Theatre last month, where he was performing his SATIRIST FOR HIRE gig.

Audience members had the opportunity to submit ‘satiric-queries’ they cared about, which Andy satirised. I did this very quick sketch, based on the poster at the theatre and he signed it to my wife (a serial BUGLE devotee) and I and took a photo of it… probably for evidence in a visual defamation case.

Drawing: Li Na

Autographed drawing of tennis player Li Na

China’s Li Na is Asia’s most successful tennis player, regarded as the trailblazing pioneer for the sport in the region and responsible for an ‘explosion’ of players, calculated at 15 million.

An estimated 116 million watched her beat Italy’s Francesca Schiavone to win the French Open in 2011. It was the first of her two Grand Slam singles titles, adding the Australian Open in 2014. She was also runner-up in both those tournaments, a semi-finalist at the US Open and a three-time quarter-finalist at Wimbledon, rising to the world’s Number 2 ranking in February 2014. She was also a singles semi-finalist at her home Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

Li appeared on the cover of TIME in 2013, named in its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. She retired in September the following year. She signed my drawing at this year’s Wimbledon Championships where she was competing in the Invitational Doubles.