The 29 July 2011 was the press night for Sam Mendes’ Shakespearean production of Richard III at the Old Vic, in featuring Kevin Spacey in the title role. It was also the beginning of a frustrating quest. I drew a quick ink portrait of the accomplished director, hoping to have it signed. But, alas, to misquote the Bard “Now was the start of Winter’s discontent”.
I have carried that piece of artwork with me for the past 2 and a half years to opening nights, closing nights, award nights, premiere nights, nights lurking around stage doors during rehearsals, and days stalking filming of the latest Bond around various London locations. All part of my strategy to secure Sam’s siggy on my sketch. But, to no avail. I lacked the Mendes touch.
Prior to this, I had met Sam on a few occasions. He was always very friendly and happy to sign an autograph. It wasn’t his fault I couldn’t get the sketch signed, I just kept missing him, as I’m sure he would have done so had our paths crossed. Ironically my saviour was another Shakespearean king. This time, Lear, which starts preview on Tuesday (14 January 2014) at the National with Simon Russell Beale. I had succumbed to leaving the sketch with a suitable note and a return envelope at the theatre. It was Saturday afternoon, a cursory glance as I pass the stage door to go into the National’s foyer (which was brimming with matinee audiences). I found a spot, sat down, wrote the note, put it with the sketches and the envelope together inside a bigger envelope and closed it up. Looked up, and there was the man himself walking straight past me. Dilemma! Do I just give him the envelope, or do I rip it open and get it signed in person? Silly question.
Sam is a big cricket fan. In fact, he was an accomplished player in his day, representing Cambridge University. So in cricketing terms, I trapped him in front of the wickets… I mean, the lift. My delivery wasn’t flash. “Saaaaaaaaaam!” He turned, saw me furiously ripping open envelopes and tearing paper out. The connection was made when he recognised himself in my drawing, which he was more than happy to sign as I burbled on about my two and half year quest, that had come to a successful conclusion.
As I had his attention and the lift hadn’t arrived I politely asked him if he wouldn’t mind signing another one – a pencil sketch – while I fumbled through my bag to find it and he was more than obliging. Now, on a cold January day, was the Winter of my content. Plus, I saved a stamp.