Drawing: Kumar Sangakkara

kumar sangakkara

The current world number one batsman in test cricket is Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara, who has just retired from the international arena but has taken up a two year contract with English county Surrey, though some media reports suggest he may be reconsidering his retirement.

He is widely regarded as one of the best batsmen of all time with a Test average of 58.66 and an ODI average of 42. A left-handed top order batsman, he has bowled a few right arm off breaks and is an accomplished wicket-keeper, having the largest number of dismissals in ODI cricket with 449 and the highest number of stumpings, 99 in ODIs.

Kumar’s 11 double centuries in tests is second only to the great Sir Don Bradman (12) and along with fellow Sri Lankan Mahela Jayawardene shares the highest partnership for any wicket – 624 against South Africa in 2006. Kumar scored 287 and Mahela 374.

I not only got to see him play in the opening game of the County cricket season at the Kia Oval last Sunday against Essex, thanks to my friend Dan’s membership and generosity, but also got to meet him after the end of day’s play.

The world’s best batsman was very affable and chatted away awhile happily signing my sketch and a photo for me.

Sketch: Tracie Bennett in End Of The Rainbow

Tracie Bennet Over The Rainbow

There was huge critical acclaim for double Olivier Award winning actress Tracie Bennett’s virtuoso turn in the lead role of Peter Quilter’s musical drama End Of the Rainbow, which focuses on the final chapter of Judy Garland’s life. It premiered in Sydney in 2005 before West End and Broadway transfers.

The London production, which enjoyed an extended run at the Trafalgar Studio from November 2010 to May 2011, received four Olivier Award nominations including Best Actress for Tracie. The show opened on Broadway at the Belasco Theater in March 2012 with Tracie receiving the lead role and earning a Tony nomination as well as winning the Outer Critics’ Circle and Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Play.

I met the engaging Tracie at the 2011 Oliviers at Covent Garden where she signed a ‘Judy’ sketch for me, which I’ve already posted. This one is a montage from the play, depicting the darker side of the role as Judy Garland battled with her drug and alcohol addiction during her final tour of the UK in 1969.

I left it at the Trafalgar Studios and obviously Tracie struggled to find a pen with ample ink. That’s another one of the risks you take when not getting the ‘graph in person – you don’t get to choose the weapon! But, she not only signed it, she sent me a nice card as well. Thanks, Tracie.

Tracie Bennett Thank You

Sketch: American Buffalo

American Buffalo

A top drawer cast of Damian Lewis, Tom Sturridge and, making his West End debut, John Goodman, star in the revival of David Mamet’s 1975 breakthrough play American Buffalo, which had its opening last night at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre.

It was last seen in the West End more than 30 years ago when Al Pacino lead the cast at the Duke of York’s Theatre.

At the centre of this modern masterpiece is an old American five-cent nickel, a “buffalo”, which John’s character; Don, the owner of a Chicago junk store where the action is set; has undersold. Convinced he has been ripped off, Don plans to track down the customer  and plans a heist to get it back, with his less than useless ‘associates’ – mouthy no hoper “Teach” (Damian) and nervy young gopher Bob (Tom).

The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish had a nice line in his review, “an expletive-laden law and music unto itself, the loose-change of inarticulate conversation spun into glinting gems of urban poetry – the true, harsh sound of American capitalism”.

The Guardian gave it four stars, with Michael Billington saying, “Daniel Evans’ production is meticulous in its psychological and physical detail and there are fine performances from Damian Lewis, John Goodman and Tom Sturridge”.

I managed to get all three to sign my drawing after the first preview performance a couple of weeks ago. Tom has now shaven his head, but I couldn’t find my eraser to do the ‘shave’ on the the sketch, so I’ll just have to draw another one.

Sketch: Rory Kinnear and Clare Higgins in Hamlet

Hamlet Clare Higgins Rory Kinnear

Rory Kinnear’s portrayal of Hamlet in the 2010 production at The National Theatre is considered by many of the theatrical great and good to be a generation defining portrayal of the Great Dane. It was the National’s former artistic director Nicholas Hytner’s first time directing Shakespeare’s most famous play. His Denmark is a modern dress production set in a surveillance state.

The Independent’s David Lister called it , “a chilling production that demanded to be seen”. He said, “A great Hamlet is not only a Hamlet of this time, it can be a Hamlet that defines his time”.

“Kinnear shows a Hamlet whose depression can be seen in fits of unwarranted aggression, withdrawal, manic high pitched laughter, intense unhappiness or simply desperate attempts to make sense of anything “. He won the 2010 Evening Standard Sward for his portrayal. He was praised for a his, “bold reinvention of the Dane”.

Lister makes special mention of Clare Higgins, “revelatory Gertrude… predicatably, the marvellous actress redefines the role. Gone is the weak, lovestruck pliable and guilt ridden mother and wife. This is more realistically a woman who will have a drink when it suits her, is more than capable of barking out orders herself and knows exactly what she wants out of life”.

Not always an easy place to catch cast members, given the many exits available at the National Theatre, I was very fortunate to catch both Rory and Clare who loved the sketch and were more than happy to ‘graph it for me.

ANZAC Day – Gallipoli Centenary

ANZAC 2

ANZAC for me is:
The dawn service at the Invercargill Cenotaph
Irish coffee at the Bluff RSA
Listening to the Last Post at Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium
Standing on Chunuk Bair in the Gallipoli Remembrance and crossing the Dardanelles with great mates
Being in Jonathan Tucker’s 1990 Invercargill Repertory production of Once On Chunuk Bair
Sprinkling Bluff water on Victor Spencer’s grave at Mud Huts in Belgium
Being with my Great Grandmother McCulloch, who lost a brother and a husband to the war, on ANZAC day

ANZAC 1

Sketch: Uncle Vanya with Anna Friel and Ken Stott

uncle vanya

Lindsay Posner’s wonderful revival of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya played London’s Vaudeville Theatre during the winter of 2012/2013.

My favourite critic, The Telegraph’s Tim Walker, gave it five stars in what he called, “a joyfully depressing revival… If you are into depressing plays, this production is, paradoxically, an unalloyed joy.”

The prolific Russian playwright’s classic tragi-comedy was adapted by Oscar winning Portuguese British writer Christoper Hampton and freatured Ken Stott and Anna Friel in the lead roles admirably supported by Samuel West, Laura Carmichael and Paul Freeman.

The date was the twelfth of December 2012, or in numerical formation 12/12/12 . One would have to do something special to mark the occasion, so one decided to try and get 12 theatre sketches signed on that auspicious day. That plan was quickly downsized due to the logistical barriers relating to the timing of entrances and exits at the various theatres. I ended up getting two, but they were good ones. … so thanks to Ken and Anna for marking this special day.

Nearly made my day – Clint Eastwood Sketch

clint

In this business, from time to time you get to experience the ultimate oxymoron; ecstasy and agony almost simultaneously. And so it was when I received this sketch back from film icon Clint Eastwood.

One of the great pleasures in autograph collecting is seeing an envelope come through the mail box with your own handwriting on it, which means someone has returned something. I carefully ripped open the letter. First the ecstasy. Yes! Then the agony… it was probably a secretarial (that means one of his staff signed it). As the numerous ‘experts’ and killjoys on the numerous Clint Eastwood forums (yes, they exist) will gleefully tell you, Clint hasn’t signed TTM (Through The Mail) since 1985.

While ideally I like to get my sigs signed in person, it’s not always possible. I have been in the presence of Mr Eastwood on a few occasions, but never managed it. I decided to send this drawing to an address while he was on location with a recent film.

He is  a very good signer in person, but chooses his moments. A few years ago, while filming in London, he returned to his hotel after an evening meal to be greeted by about sixty people wanting his autograph… or ten autographs each!

Some, in fact the majority, were dealers. Clint was happy to sign one for everyone as it all started in an orderly fashion, but that quickly turned into a scrum as the aforementioned bottom feeders wanted more than a single sig each.

This is a regular ploy of this species of signature hunter, as during the resulting mayhem they can gather a harvest of ‘graphs because the celebrity is blindly signing everything that’s put in front of them. Consequently his minders called the whole thing off and ushered him into the hotel.

I have seen Clint sign in person. Obviously at 84 his autograph has been subject to a number of variations with the letter formation becoming more slanted and erratic. Authenticators say that Clint tends to reach up with the final ‘d’ while his secretarial tends to form it like a lower case ‘g’.

In frantic situations, which is normal for Clint, his rushed graph tends to be more bunched up with the customary loop of ‘o’s and the ‘d’ – in fact the ‘d’ resembles an ‘of’ but he does continue the down stroke very below the rest of the ‘graph.

Apart from all the movie stills sent to Clint for signing, the occasional drawing pops up. One person proudly posted a signed sketch to one of these forums. He had been trying to get it signed for some time, only to have the ‘experts’ quickly tell him it was a secretarial.

However, a respondent whose expertise was not recognised, but seemed to speak from experience did say that from time to time the great man will be shown a piece of art that someone has taken the time to draw and will sign it.

I did see some examples of Clint’s handwriting and his lower case ‘r’ formation is the same in my dedication… so you never know. He is after all, Clint Eastwood, so he can do what he likes.

Clint is not the only one to use secretarial, it’s part of the business and that’s life. At worst, someone who is authorised by Clint in his office obviously liked the sketch enough to sign it and in reality it still ‘made my day’.

Sketch : Ingrid Fliter

ingrid fliter

Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter rose to global attention when she was awarded the 2006 Gilmore Artist Award, one of only a handful of pianists to have received the honour. The Gilmore Artist Award is presented to an exceptional pianist. Over two years, the Gilmore committee listened to artists from around the world in search of a “truly exceptional” candidate. The Award’s director Daniel Gustin said, “We were unanimously swept away by Ingrid Fliter’s astonishing prowess and her overall musicianship.”

Ingrid has established a reputation as one of the pre-eminent interpreters of Chopin. Geoffry Norris in The Independent stated “Ingrid Fliter was born to play Chopin with power and passion and is completely at one with the music’s demands of agility, vim and vigour, but also possesses the essential quality of impeccable taste to preserve the music’s poetic perspective.”

Ingrid divides her time between Europe and the US and last week she played the Royal Albert Hall in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra under conductor Juraj Valcuha, where she signed my sketch.

Sketch: Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess in Love Never Dies

Love Never Dies

Love never dies… and rain-soaked paper always dries

LOVE NEVER DIES – the long awaited sequel to Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s mega-musical PHANTOM OF THE OPERA opened at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End on 9 March 2010, following previews from late February.

It featured Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess in the lead roles and is set a decade on from the original when the Phantom becomes ‘Mr Y’, the mysterious owner of a Coney Island pleasure park who lures Christine back for a well paid gig.

I positioned myself at the shelterless Adelphi stage door on the rainy night of the World Premiere with this sketch. Ramin and Sierra did sign another one later, on a drier evening, which I’ve previously posted. But this one got the liquid treatment, giving a less than desired ripple effect across its surface. However, due to the positioning of a kind patron’s sole umbrella and the ever reliable, quick-drying spirit-based Sharpie pen that didn’t run or smudge, I managed to get it signed which was a note-worthy performance in itself.

Sketch: Michael Sheen as Hamlet

Michael Sheen

In May 2013 I posted a signed montage sketch of Michael Sheen as Hamlet, from the Young Vic winter 2011 production of the Bard’s number one play.

I had also drawn this biro portrait, which is actually one of my favourites, which Michael also signed.

Hamlet was directed by Ian Rickson and is set in the secure wing of a psychiatric hospital and features original music by PJ Harvey. The Telegraph declared Michael’s performance, “could be up there among the great Hamlets” and the Evening Standard said, “an audacious achievement that will live in the memory”.

He was really nice and took time to chat and ‘graph in The Cut Bar as he headed to the stage door for an evening performance. I was watching Stephen Frears’ The Queen the other night in which Michael stars as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and remembered I had this other sketch.

So, here it is… after Royal decree.