Northern Irish singer Rachel Tucker has returned to the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London to play Elphaba in WICKED-a role she knows well, having played it longer than anyone else in the production’s history. Rachel replaced Alexia Khadine in March 2010 and in June 2012 she succeeded Kerry Ellis as the longest running performer to play the green witch. She left the show in October of that year for maternity leave after over 900 performances. In September 2015 Rachel reprised the role on Broadway, replacing Caroline Bowman at the Gershwin Theatre until 30 July this year. In early September she returned to the London production in time for its 10th Anniversary, replacing Emma Hatton where she signed my sketch.
The penultimate play this season at London’s ‘hippist, shabby, chic theatre space’ Found 111 was Owen McCafferty’s latest blackly comic UNFAITHFUL. The four-handler, 75 minute piece is a exploration of infidelity and its effects on a marriage. “When paths cross, a spark is ignited that reveals the hidden truths of two tangled relationships, the unspoken desires, the piercing regrets and the postponed conversations.” One of the couple is Peter and Tara played by Matthew Lewis and Ruta Gedmintas.
Matthew is probably best known as Neville Longbottom, one of the ‘Big Seven’ in the HARRY POTTER film franchise and latterly as Jamie Bradley in THE SYNDICATE AND Ruta’s TV CV includes THE STAIN, SPOOKS, CODE9, THE BORGIAS and THE TUDORS. I meet both at the trendy pop-up Charing Cross theatre during the six-week run of UNFAITHFUL and they signed this drawing for me.
Lea Helene Seydoux-Fornier de Clansonne thankfully condensed her name to Lea Seydoux, which makes it easier and quicker to sign, as was the case last week when the heavily pregnant French actress attended the screening of Xavier Dolan’s IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD at the 60th BFI London Film Festival. The film won the Grand Prix and Jury prizes at Cannes this year and will be Canada’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at next year’s Academy Awards.
Lea began her career in French cinema, winning the Trouphee Chopard Award given to promising actors at Cannes and receiving one of her many Cesar noms for the 2008 film THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE. Her international break-out role was Emma in the coming-of-age romantic drama BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR, which won the Palm d’Or. Hollywood blockbusters followed including her role as Dr Madeleine Swan the ‘main amour’ in the 24th Bond film SPECTRE Peter Bradshaw in his Guardian review described her performance as ‘stylishly played with just the right amount of sullen sensuality.”
It was great to get her to graph my sketch, albeit with a purple sharpie!
Last time five time Oscar nominee Amy Adams signed a sketch for me the weather gods were not kind, but she was and managed to graph my drawing despite the drops. This time the rain threatened… but that’s all at the Gala Screening of Tom Ford’s intoxicating thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS at the BFI London Film Festival on Friday night. I did this drawing of Amy as the Baker’s Wife in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Tony-Award winning musical INTO THE WOODS which was part of the Delacorte Theatre’s 2012 summer series in New York’s Central Park.
I was especially pleased because she only did a small section of the crowd in a restricted red carpet area at the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square and she was only signing her quick, shortened double ‘a’ initial sig (which I quite like). With the sketch she took the time to chat and only dedicate, but the sign her full autograph.
I meet the wonderful British actress Brenda Blethyn on Saturday afternoon at the world premiere of the animated feature ETHEL & ERNEST at the Curzon cinema as part of the 60th BFI London Film Festival. Brenda voiced the title character Ethel in this film version of Raymond Brigg’s graphic novel about the life of his parents. Currently appearing in the sixth series of the TV drama VERA as DCI Vera Stanhope, Brenda’s breakthrough role was Cynthia Rose Purley in Mike Leigh’s SECRETS & LIES in 1996, which won her the Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and the first of her two Oscar nominations. Equally successful stage career, winning an Olivier Award in Michael Frayn’s 1984’s BENEFACTORS.
I had hoped to catch Brenda going in, but was unable to. She stayed for the screening and did a Q+A at its conclusion which took a few hours but the wait was well worth it, as she happily signed my portrait with her superb ‘graph.
It’s early days in the Oscar race, but Isabelle Huppert’s performance in the psychological thriller ELLE has her in nomination contention. Many pundits believe that the veteran French actress pulls off one of the year’s most challenging characters -a rape victim who refuses to let her abuse define her. In Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s first feature for a decade, Isabelle plays Michele who stalks her attacker. After a strong showing in competition at Cannes, the film has been selected as France’s official entry in the Foreign Language category at next year’s Academy Awards.
Isabelle has appeared in over 100 films and TV productions since 1971, winning a BAFTA and a record 15 nominations for France’s highest film award, the Cesar, winning in 1995 for LA CEREMONIE. She was in London last week with Paul attending the ELLE in-competition screening at this year’s BFI London Film Festival where she signed my drawing.
Two women look at masculinity and patriarchy in TWO MAN SHOW, the latest hit show from RashDash’s high octane duo, Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen. Actually it’s three women, Becky Wilkie joins them as the production’s musician. The eighty minute genre-defying sketch exploration of gender, language and humankind played this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, before a sold out month’s residency at London’s Soho Theatre. It won the 2016 Fringe First Award and due to demand will return for another run in early 2017.
The VERY physical theatre uses a combination of performance styles including music and dance to communicate what it means to be a man and a woman. As Abbi says on their website, “I make all the shows with Helen. We always give ourselves the best parts. At the moment we are making shows that are big and messy and angry.” Helen adds, “I couldn’t imagine performing in a RashDash show where I wasn’t a breathless, sweaty mess by the end.” In between all their theatrical turbulence they both found time to sign my sketch at the Soho.
THE DRESSER, considered Ronald Harwood’s greatest play, returned to the West End this month at the Duke of York’s Theatre with Ken Stott as ‘Sir’ and Reece Shearsmith as his devoted dresser Norman, directed by Sean Foley.
The story of an ageing actor’s personal assistant who struggles to keep his charge’s life together takes place over the course of one night in a small English regional theatre during the Second World War. It’s based on Sir Ronald’s own experience as the dresser for English actor-manager Sir Donald Wolfit who is the model for ‘Sir.’
The Oscar-winning playwright is always puzzled by the play’s popularity. When it opened at Manchester’s Exchange Theatre in 1980 he thought it would only last six weeks. It’s been a long six weeks. The original production transferred to the Queen’s Theatre in London’s West End a few months later before moving to Broadway and in 1983 a film starring Albert Finney as Sir and Tom Courtenay as Norman (who reprised the role in both stage and screen versions) was released. In all formats THE DRESSER was nominated for multiple Olivier, Tony and Academy, BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards.
I caught up with Ken and Reece earlier this week at the Duke of York’s during previews before tomorrow night’s opening and they signed my Dresser drawing for me.
I read that versatile British actor Jasper Britton spent a number of years as an assistant stage manager and sound operator until in 1989 he marched into Jonathan Miller’s Old Vic office and threatened to stay there unless he as given an audition for KING LEAR. His subsequent King of France to Eric Porter’s Lear was the start of a distinguished stage career, punctuated by playing monarchs at The National and under Mark Rylance’s tenure at Shakespeare’s Globe. His latest is Charles II in THE LIBERTINE at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, captured here in majestic 4B.
The ignoble British sovereign spent many an hour in the company of the notorious 17th century rake and poet John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester and the many… shall we politely say, fallen daughters of Eve. He is one of the only characters in the play to stand up to Rochester and grants him a valuable commission with the proviso, ”Don’t fuck it up.” Paul Taylor wrote in the Independent, “The best performance of the evening comes from Jasper Britton who brilliantly captures the posturing, overripe Charles II’s unnerving swings between chumminess and assertion.”
Jasper’s mode of transport to the theatre is a motorbike. Don’t ask me the make or model, but it’s big and fast. Clad in resplendent grey leathers, befitting royalty he arrived for Saturday’s matinee on the said cycle, popped into the stage door to sign in and sort out the removal of his garb, then sauntered back out to sign this drawing.