Sketch: Helen Mirren in Phèdre, National Theatre

mirren phedre

Dame Helen Mirren returned to the stage in June 2009 after a six year absence to play the title role in Jean Racine’s 1676(ish) tragedy Phèdre at London’s National Theatre.

In the absence of her royal husband Thésée King of Athens, his second wife Phèdre declares her love to Hippolyte (played by Dominic Cooper) the King’s son from a previous marriage.

Described by Michael Billington as a, “powerful and striking production,” Phèdre was directed by the National’s outgoing Director Sir Nicholas Hytner, from Ted Hughes’ gutsy free verse translation replacing Racine’s formal Alexandrine couplets on a vast, stark palace veranda stage under the hard Mediterranean sunlighitng.

On 25 June the play was filmed and broadcast live to over 70 cinemas across the UK and subsequently screened “as live” in over 280 cinemas across the world as part of the NT Live Project.

Always a great signer, Dame Helen signed and happily dedicated this black biro Phèdre portrait montage in person at the European Premiere of Brighton Rock at London’s West End Odeon in February 2011.

See my other Helen Mirren sketches:
This portrait sketch
A sketch from The Audience

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Drawing: Gemma Arterton in Runner Runner and Byzantium

gemma a

Gemma Arterton has always been fan friendly and has signed a number of my sketches over the years at premieres and stage doors. She is currently starring as Rita O’Grady in Made In Dagenham – the stage musical about the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968 concerning equal pay for women at London’s Adelphi Theatre.

I had drawn this montage of Gemma from her roles in the films Runner Runner and Byzantium some time ago and had it in my folder, I just so happened to be passing the Adelphi stage door last week when she emerged from and veining performance to catch up with the gathered admirers. I waited, then asked her if she wouldn’t mind signing the drawing, which she was happy to do.

Made in Dagenham continues until 11 April.

See my other Gemma Arterton sketches:
A Little Dog Laughed
Made In Dagenham
The Duchess of Malfi

Drawing: John Lithgow in The Magistrate at the National Theatre

john lithgowI finally got the brilliant John Lithgow to sign a sketch for me.

The New York-born 69 year-old has appeared in more than 30 films, with two Oscar nominations and an equally impressive television list that includes the Emmy-award winning 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN and DEXTER.

John’s distinguished stage career has spanned over four decades on both sides of the Atlantic. His 1973 Broadway debut in David Storey’s THE CHANGING ROOM earned him the Tony and Drama Desk Awards. He won his second Tony for his portrayal of J.J Hunsecker in the Broadway adaption of the 1957 film SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS in 2002.

During the winter of 2012/13 John crossed the ditch to appear on the London stage as the title character, police magistrate Aeneas Posket in the National Theatre’s revival of Arthur Pinero’s THE MAGISTRATE. I was lucky enough to catch a saturday matinee.

The following summer he retuned to New York and the Delacorte stage in Central Park’s Public Theatre’s production of KING LEAR, where he last appeared in 1975 in the role of Laertes in HAMLET. John listed playing ‘Lear’ at the top of his bucket list..”so there’s an empty space there now.” he quipped.

When asked what he disliked most about his appearance, John replied, “I have a love/hate relationship with my height-I am 6 foot 4 inches.”

John signed this sketch depicting his stage appearances in THE MAGISTRATE and KING LEAR at the John Golden Theatre in New York where he has just finished the limited season of Edward Albee’s A DELICATE BALANCE alongside Glenn Close. He actually dedicated it ‘To Mark’,but my letter must have been under the drawing because the inscription was written on the top of it with the most important sig on the sketch.

 

Sketch: Guy Paul and Harriet Walter in Boa at Trafalgar Studios

Boa One of Britain’s greatest actresses, Olivier Award-winner, Dame Harriet Walter and her husband, American Broadway actor Guy Paul perform together for the first time in Clare Brennan’s tender two-hander BOA in one of London’s most intimate spaces at the Trafalgar Studios. The one and a half hour play is an honest account of a husband and wife, whose relationship spans thirty years of love, laughter, addiction and warfare. A large snake appears on the publicity material, but thankfully only metaphorically on stage. ‘Boa’ is the nickname of Harriet’s character Belinda. It relates on a number of levels, including her resemblence to the nocturnal snake and her passionate volatility as a heavy drinker described as ‘severe and slippery’.

“Sometimes her arm around your shoulders felt like a feather boa, and sometimes it felt like a big old snake squeezing the life out of you. I liked it.”

BOA runs for a strictly limited 5 week season at the 98 seat Trafalgar Studio 2, finishing on 7 March.

 

Sketch: Ashley Jensen

Ashley Jensen

 

BAFTA and Emmy-nominated Scottish actress Ashley Jensen found fame alongside Ricky Gervais in EXTRAS and then as Christina McKinney in the award-winning American comedy-drama UGLY BETTY or four seasons. Playing the socially inept Maggie Jacobs in the BBC Two/HBO television series EXTRAS, Ashley won the Best TV Comedy Actress and newcomer gongs at the 2005 British Comedy Awards and a BAFTA nomination. In the 2007 Christmas special she earned an Emmy nom.

After six years amongst the tinseltown glitterati, Ashley moved back to the UK, making her West End debut in Alan Ayckbourne’s A CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL at London’s Harold Pinter Theatre in the Winter of 2012.  Returning to her roots, she played the role of  Hannah, the repressed wife in the Trevor Nunn directed revival, eleven years after her last stage appearance.

Ashley can currently be seen on the small screen in the British sitcom CATASTROPHE.

Sketch: Julianne Moore

julianne moore

Prior to winning her first Oscar last night for her portrayal as a woman with dementia, Julianne Moore was in London collecting the BAFTA. A number of cunning plans were hatched in my mind to secure her sig on a sketch.

Plan A. Send a drawing to the Academy… The British Academy that is, at their HQ in Piccadilly, paying extra to have it delivered on time and signed for. That didn’t work and it came back quicker than it was sent with a large, red ‘REFUSED’ on it.

Plan B. I found out at short notice that Julianne was doing a Q+A after a screening of Still Alice on the Friday evening before Sunday’s ceremony the Curzon Chelsea, a small cinema on the King’s Road in Knightsbridge. I didn’t have the returned sketch on me, so quickly did this one in 5 minutes, hence the minimal detail, but enough to get recognition.

The usual suspects had gathered in the confined entrance to the cinema. Julianne was running late, or as the security said, she will be just on time, arriving at the end of the screening. And she did, getting out of the car on the drivers side. She didn’t even make it to the curb before she was mobbed with 8x10s and all manner of writing instruments.I was by the door… may as well been on the moon, (which incidentally was in its ‘fool’ phase above us). A quick passage was negotiated after signing as many as poss in 30 seconds as she was whisked inside.

Plan C. I went to the local pub and watched the first half of the Six Nations Rugby match between England and Wales, returning to hopefully get her exiting. Not a soul there. I went around the corner and as night follows day there they all were, lining three deep by the side door,opposite a vehicle that had its motor running. The lunacy continued, right timing, just couldn’t find a place.

Plan D. Door… or doors in this case. The building had a number of doors along this side. I noticed a security person standing at another one to the one where all and sundry were gathered. This was about 10 metres from the mob. I stood there… Moore chance I thought.

30 seconds later Julianne steps out right in front of me. Security said she was in a hurry and wouldn’t be signing, but she said, “I’ll sign this sketch, ” climbed into the car and drove off.

I returned to the second half of the rugby and was over the moon with the evening’s harvest.

Drawing: Brandon Victor Dixon in The Scottsboro Boys

scottsboro

The final collaboration between legendary composing duo John Kander and Fred Ebb (Cabaret, Chicago) The Scottsboro Boys, tells the story of a group of nine black teenagers brought together by fate in a case that sparked the American Civil Rights Movement and led to two pivotal Supreme Court rulings. The show premiered off Broadway in February 2010, moving to Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre in October. The musical then opened in London’s Young Vic Theatre in 2013 where it sold out, before moving to the Garrick Theatre in the West End in October 2014.

Grammy and Tony nominee Brandon Victor Dixon made his West End debut as Haywood Patterson in The Scottsboro Boys. A Columbia University graduate, Brandon was a scholarship winner at the British Academy of Dramatic Acting at Oxford.  He recently created the role of Berry Gordy in Motown, The Musical with a Drama League Award nomination.

His Tony nomination was for his role as Harpo in Broadway’s The Colour Purple and won the Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Out Critic’s Circle, Drama League and AUDLCO award for his outstanding portrayal of Haywood Patterson in the original off-Broadway production of The Socttsboro Boys.

His producing credits include Of Mice and Men (2014) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch which won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.

In recognition of this intelligent musical about a notorious episode of American racial injustice, The Scottsboro Boys was nominated for 12 Tonys and 6 Olivier Awards, but failed to win any. It did win the London Critics’ Circle and Evening Standard Awards for Best Musical.

The West End run finishes today.

Sketch: Jenna Russell, Samantha Spiro and Tamzin Outhwaite in Di and Viv and Rose at the Vaudeville Theatre

di and viv and rose

Amelia Bullmore’s hilarious and heartwarming comedy about life’s impact on friendship Di and Viv and Rose finally makes its West End debut at the Vaudeville Theatre for a limited season. It premiered at Hampstead Downstairs in 2011 where it was a sell out success with an in-house transfer to Hampstead’s Main Stage in 2013, also enjoying a sell out run.

Original cast member Tamzin Outhwaite (Di) is joined by Samantha Spiro (Viv) and Jenna Russell (Rose) in this story of female friendship across 27 years, following them from initial bonding as University undergraduates in 1983, through life’s changes, crises and tragedies.

Receiving an average of four stars by the London critics, Di and Viv and Rose continues at the Vaudeville until 14 March.

Sketch: Emma Hatton, Natalie Andreou and Savannah Stevenson in Wicked

Emma Hatton Savannah Stevenson Wicked

Wicked, the musical phenomenon has been seen by more than 44 million people in 13 countries. It premiered in the West End  at London’s Apollo Victoria on 27 September 2006 and has been running there ever since. It was the first full production outside the US.

My wife and I received prime stall tickets to review the show from Official Theatre and Seat Plan, which coincided with Emma Hatton’s elevation to the lead Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. She joined the cast from We Will Rock You in late 2013 as the standby Elphaba, but due to a back injury sustained by lead Willemijn Verkaik, Emma performed the role more frequently. She temporarily became the lead in July 2014, performing her 100th show at the Apollo on 3 September and this month her lead role was made permanent. It’s fair to say she was familiar with the part.

The other lead, Glinda The Good was played by the sensational Savannah Stevenson who’s been living in ‘the bubble’ since July 2013, replacing lead Gina Beck in November that year. As it turned out Emma wasn’t Elphaba the night we saw it. Having drawn her, I did think she looked a bit different, but to misquote a famous muppet amphibian, “it’s not easy recognising people when they’re green.” Which witch was which?

Natalie Andreou, the standby Elphaba, also joined the show this month from the the jukebox musical Rock of Ages. It was a memorable performance, Defying Gravity especially, the big number to end the first half, was impressive, but when she belted out No Good Deed in the second, the audience responded with thunderous applause.

We waited at the stage door and Savannah came out armed with her own sharpie. In the show she’s blonde, in real life she’s not, so waiting fans had to ask who she was. “I get that all the time,” she said. She happily signed my sketch and I said, “It must take Emma a lot longer to remove the green make up”. She concurred and then told me it was Natalie doing the part. I didn’t have a sketch of Natalie. So I left the sketch of Emma and Savannah at the theatre, went home and did one of Natalie as Sherrie in Rock, and her most recent role as Snow White at the Opera House in Mancherster over the festive season and posted it. Both came back signed…. so here they are…. I got to see Wicked for free and witches three!

Natalie Anderson

Drawing: Ruth Wilson and Jake Gyllenhaal in Constellations on Broadway

Constellations

Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson both made their Broadway debuts in English playwright Nick Payne’s  two-hander CONSTELLATIONS at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre last month. Playing star-crossed lovers Roland and Marianne, they received rave reviews from both critics and the audience. “Short, sweet and strangely haunting”, said Variety. It called the hour long performance a “baby bombshell”- single set, two characters, sparce scenery, killer acting!

The story of a young couple who break through the boundaries of the time/space continuum to explore the infinite possibilites of their love, CONSTELLATIONS premiered at London’s  Royal Court Theatre in early 2012. As a result of strong reviews it subsequently transferred to the Duke of Yorks in the West End.

Both Jake and Ruth received Golden Globe nominations this year, with Ruth winning for her role as Alison Bailey in the new TV drama THE AFFAIR. Jake has picked up a haul of awards and nominations, including BAFTA and the Screen Actors Guild nods for his performance in the neo-noir crime thriller NIGHTCRAWLER.

Ruth has signed a couple of my drawings at West End productions so I sent this simple portrait sketch based on the plays poster to Ruth at the Theatre and both she and Jake kindly signed it for me.