Stephen Wight and Tracy-Ann Oberman in McQueen

McQueen

John Caird’s stylish production McQueen about the late celebrated fashion designer Lee ‘Alexander’ McQueen, which premiered earlier this year to sell-out audiences at London’s St James Theatre, began its West End run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket last week.

Coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the designer’s death, James Phillips study is not a ‘bio-play’ wrote Fiona Mountford in her Evening Standard review.” The trippy action unfolds over one long night of the soul somewhere very near the end of McQueen’s troubled, high-achieving life.” Considered one of the most innovative designers of his generation, the ‘tortured genius’ hung himself with his favourite brown belt in 2010. The Guardian’s Michael Billington described the production as “primarily an act of worship, a secular hymn to a famous iconoclast who tragically died young at the age of 40.” The critic also wrote, “An excellent lead performance by Stephen Wight…with good support from Tracy-Ann Oberman,” as McQueen’s mentor Isabella Bow, who bought his entire 1992 graduation collection and persuaded him to use his middle name Alexander for his own fashion label. She committed suicide in 2007.

Savage Beauty – a retrospective exhibition of McQueen’s work finished this month at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

I met both Stephen and Tracy-Ann going in for last Saturday’s matinee and they were more than happy to sign this sketch.

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Drawing: Alice Marshall in Alice’s Comedy Wonderland

alice marshall

“Alice Marshall is a proper actor,” prefaced Martin Walker in his Three Minute interview with her for BroadwayBaby.

In spite of many TV roles, including recently playing Mary Magdalene in The Jesus Mystery “comedy is also in her blood”. Martin’s first question was “You’re an actor, comic and voice over artist. Have I left anything out? Which comes first and why?” Alice replied. “and astronaut obviously. But who isn’t these days?” She said they all “sort of mesh together most of the time and the skills are similar in all facets of entertainment”.

She performed her debut solo comedy show Vicious at London’s Museum of Comedy last month, with the slogan “Life is Cruel. People are arseholes. This is vicious.” Alice takes a long hard look at the world through the eyes of the hurt, the lonely, the angry, the mad, the sad and the completely unhinged.

The Spectator wrote, “she manages to be erotic and extremely funny at the same time without being effortful or cheesy about it. A natural…”

Last year Alice was part of Canal Café Theatre’s long running News Review at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was also part of Alice’s Comedy Wonderland at the Phoenix Artist’s Club in Soho earlier this year, described by Time Out as “going down the surreal comedy rabbit hole at this weirdo gig featuring a collection of comics”. This sketch, which she signed for me, is based on that gig.

Drawing: Anna Morris in It’s Got To Be Perfect

Anna Morris

Character comic and writer Anna Morris, star of ITV’s Bad Bridesmaid and the BBC’s Outnumbered, performed some work-in-progress gigs of her new show It’s Got To Be Perfect at the Leicester Square Theatre and Museum of Comedy before taking it to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

It’s an interactive wedding rehearsal featuring Georgina the Bridezilla, from Anna’s viral YouTube series Georgina’s Wedding Blogs, she’s getting married and it’s got to be perfect… or else.

Currently playing to packed houses at Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms, EdFringeReview wrote, “not only is it funny, it’s interesting, creative and sweet,”

Speaking of sweet, Anna included a promotional love heart candy, when she returned my signed sketch through the mail, which didn’t help the condition of the artwork through the letterbox but left a nice taste in the mouth.

Drawing: Michelle Fairley in Splendour

michelle fairley

Northern Irish actress Michelle Fairley has returned to London’s  Donmar Warehouse for it’s season of  Abi Morgan’s power play Splendour. In 2008 she played Iago’s wife Emilia in Othello at the same, intimate Covent Garden venue. It was her lauded portrayal that impressed the Game of Thrones writers , who saw her performance and offered her the role of the ‘maternal Boadicea’, Catelyn Stark in the hit HBO TV series. Inspite of an impressive list of small screen credits, Michelle says that theatre is her preference, hence her return to the boards. She is part of an all-female quartet, which includes Sinead Cusack, Zawe Ashton and Genevieve O’Reilly, playing the best friend of the wife of a dictator whose unnamed regime is collapsing around him.

London-based since 1986, Michelle has openly stated her dislike for Hollywood,  where she has worked on a number of projects, including her recurring role as Dr. Ava Hessington in Suites. With that recognition comes the usual  increased attention-something I got the impression Michelle isn’t comfortable with. She seemed a little more happier to sign my sketch at the theatre than the piles of glossy 8×10 Thrones stills the swarm of dealers gave her to graph.

Drawing: Iliza Shlesinger in Freezing Hot

iliza s soho

Thirty-two year old Texan Iliza Shlesinger has finally made her UK debut at London’s Soho Theatre, a decade after becoming the only female and youngest winner of the US talent show Last Comic Standing. Her first TV Special War Paint reached Number 1 on the American iTunes chart and her follow-up Netflix Special Freezing Hot received rave reviews. It is the latter that she is performing at the Soho until the end of August, exposing women’s best kept secrets with opinions on things from first date attire, fantasy breakups, the constant pursuit of not being cold while still looking hot to imagining life as a mermaid and the general state of her nation. TimeOut’s Danielle Goldstein wrote, “Dressed from head to toe in black, in jeans tight enough to put the ‘vagina in a chokehold’, Iliza Shlesinger commands the stage…fearlessly delivers embarrassing anecdotes we can all relate to.” ( Note: My sketch does not depict her in black from head to toe…it saves lead and possibly gets me more carbon credits.)

As I have said, laboriously, the Soho can be an awkward venue to nab the sketch subject for a siggy. With three stages, the intimate environs can become overpeopled with patrons toing and froing. In this case, I got a tad lucky. I was seated at a table near the foyer from wence Iliza would hopefully emerge from the downstairs stage. I had planned to finish my Pilsner with a few minutes to spare before strategically positioning myself in, what I call the ‘salmon spawning spot’ (you know, swimming upstream) as the audience emerged.With three sips of my beverage to go, one of the bar staff placed a reserve sign on my table ‘For Iliza, 8.30pm’ it read. Something about Mohammed and the mountain came to mind, but I quickly informed the  barman, as the crowd poured in at 8.31, that I would vacate as soon as she arrived, which she duly did and happily signed my sketch.

Drawing: Barbara Windsor

barbara windsor 2

She may be only four foot ten and a half inches tall, but she’s a towering giant when it comes to her fans.  The diminuitive  Barbara Windsor makes time for everyone, signing, posing and conversing…lots of conversing and ‘carrying on’.  Appropriately she played the first female God in the musical Spamalot during it’s Summer Season of Charity Celebrity Gods at London’s Playhouse Theatre in 2013. Her height, or lack of it was one of the reasons she accepted the role, saying,”this would be the first and only time people would look up to me.” Since starting her stage and screen career in the early 1950’s, she has scaled the heights with nominations for a  BAFTA for Sparrers Can’t Sing (1963) and a Tony in 1964 for Oh,What A Lovely War!

Barbara was at the British Film Institute a couple of weeks ago, so I quickly did this sketch based on her typical pose in the nine Carry On films she starred in during the sixties and seventies as the ‘good-time girl’. I think this one may have been from either Carry On Doctor or Carry On Doctor Again.To digress, she has an honorary doctorate from the University of East London.  Anyway, Barbs took the time to meet and greet the large crowd gathered to see her. When she saw this sketch, she commented, ‘We had such fun making those films” and wrote a great dedication in exemplary handwriting, before carrying on to the next person.

Drawing: Irina Kolesnikova in Swan Lake

irina k swan lake

One of the world’s finest classical dancers performed the world’s favourite ballet this week at the London Coliseum. The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre concluded it’s 2015 International touring programme of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake with prima ballerina Irina Kolesnikova headlining the season as both the Swan Queen ‘Odete’ and the antagonist ‘Odile’ at the iconic venue. The production also included special guest artists from Russia’s legendary Bolshoi and Mariinsky Theatres and the English capitals own Royal Ballet. “It’s Kolensnikova that steals the show,” wrote Londonist’s Tiffany Pritchard, “…with her long, willowy arms, supple back arches and lithe yet perfectly controlled pirouettes on the white swan (Odette), followed in quick succession by the robust, high-spirited sequences of the black swan (Odile).” Originally the two roles were played by separate dancers, but it has become customary for prima ballerinas to perform both parts. The Telegraph’s Vanessa Keys said of Irina’s performance,”Her portrayal of the vulnerable swan queen Odette is almost unbearably vulnerable and her Odile is wickedly seductive.”

I’m a novice when it comes to watching and understanding ballet, but I love drawing dancers and their kinetic effect. This pose of Irina as Odette was striking in its simplicity. I just had to draw it…and naturally meet the dancing Swan Queen herself and have it signed. I waited with a handful of dance devotees at the stage door as a procession of performers flowed out, into the balmy evening air, signing programmes  and partaking in convivial conversation. But no one with a ‘long neck and liquid doe-like eyes’ ( as one reviewer described her), resembling Uma Thurman-my reference for Irina-appeared. After an hour and a half, with the time of my last train home fast approaching a Russian gentleman, who was obviously connected to the production and chatting to the more devout of the devotees said, ‘I’ll go and get her.” And he did. I happened to be the first in line. She was very nice and said “Oh” when she saw the sketch and signed it. In the absence of any interpretation I took “Oh” as an expression of approval. Time well spent and I caught the last train.

Drawing: Caroline Wozniacki

caroline woz

The amiable Danish tennis player Caroline Wozniacki held the WTA number one ranking for 67 weeks, a position she held year end for two consecutive years in 2010 and 2011. She was the first Scandinavian woman to hold the top spot and the 20th overall. Caroline’s game is based on a strong defensive playing style described as a “counter puncher”.

Her two handed backhand is her key weapon, tuning defence into attack, a vital component in her 23 singles title victories. She has yet to win her first Grand Slam but has featured twice in the US Open final, most recently losing the 2014 decider to close friend Serena Williams. ‘Caro’ is currently 5th in the WTA rankings.

She also ran the New York City Marathon in November last year, in a time of 3:26:33, which was good enough to qualify for next year’s Boston Marathon, but said it will be a few years before she takes on another 26 mile and 385 yard event again. She’s also a huge fan of the English Premiere League team Liverpool FC.

While I’ve managed to collect Caroline’s graph in person I haven’t been able to get a sketch signed… until now. Mainly because on the occasions I’ve met her, I didn’t have a drawing to sign.

I sent a sketch to her at the Eastbourne Tournament in June, where she reached the semis, but nothing came back. But the time I made it to Wimbledon a couple of weeks later, she had lost her fourth round match, so I missed out again. Another sig-stalker in the US stepped in to assist, getting this signed for me at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California this month.

Ever popular, she attracted a large group of admirers, so he couldn’t get a dedication, but I was pleased with the result.

Drawing: Claire Dunne and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor in Juno and the Paycock

Juno and the Paycock

Howard Davies’s acclaimed 2011 revival of Sean O’Casey’s second play of his Dublin trilogy Juno and the Paycock transferred from Dublin’s Abby Theatre to the National’s Lyttelton stage in London at year end.  Considered one of the great plays of the 20th Century, it paints the devasting portrait of wasted potential of the poverty-striken Boyle family during the chaos of the 1922 Irish Civil War. Joining leads Ciaran Hinds and Sinead Cusack were Clare Dunne as the daughter Mary and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as her rejected suitor and unionist Jerry Devine.

 I’m Winter by name…not by nature so the Winter of 2011/12 ..or for that matter, any Winter is not a good time to hang around stage doors. The National’s at least has cover, but it can’t prevent the sub-zero temperatures stopping the flow of the sharpies and the sharpies owner’s blood. That is when I take the seasonal approach, leaving the artwork in the warmth of the stage door manager’s desk and relying on the frozen Royal Mailperson to deliver it back to me. It gives one a warm feeling when the plan works, which it did in this case.

Drawing: Zawe Ashton in Salome

zawe ashton

Jamie Lloyd’s 2010 production of Oscar Wilde’s  controversial, once-banned 1892 biblical play Salome featured actor,writer and director, Zawe Ashton in the title role as the wilful, head-hunting daughter of Herodias. Beginning in May at the Curve Theatre in Leicester it finished with a run at London’s Hampstead Theatre. “This updated Salome comes at you shrouded in mist, with a thumping soundtrack and its pants right down at its ankles and dragging in the dirt,” wrote Aleks Sierz in The Arts Desk, describing Zawe’s portrayal as “feisty raucousness”.  The Guardian’s Michael Billington said “Zawe Ashton’s dancing to a ghetto blaster and voluptuously kissing the severed head suggests an adolescent in the grip of fierce erotic imaginings.”

The Screen International’s 2009 ‘Star of Tomorrow’ and the winner of  Cosmopolitian Magazine’s ‘Ultimate Newcomer’ trophy at the Women of the Year’ Awards in 2012, Zawe is currently under commission to The Bush Theatre and the Clean Break Theatre Company. She is also appearing in the London Premiere of Abi Morgan’s Splendour at the Donmar Warehouse, where I caught up with her to sign this Salome sketch going in for last Saturday’s matinee.