Drawing: Toni Collette

toni collette

This is a surrogate sketch for the one I really wanted Toni Collette to sign. I had originally drawn her in her role as Jennifer when she returned to Broadway, after a 14 year absence last spring in Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses. I knew Toni was an accomplished Australian actress, nominated for every award imaginable (and winner of a few), but only just found out she’s an equally accomplished musician and lead singer in the band The Finish. Unfortunately in my usual haste, my antiquated filing and protection system in my even more antiquated bag assigned the original sketch to a piece of  amateur origami…similar to the Royal Mail sometimes when delivering returned goodies through my small mail slot. ( and strangely as I type this the art of postal paper-folding has just been practiced through the said slot). Suffice to say it was not in a fit state for sig-nifying. The suggogate was quickly sketched in time to catch Toni at the Miss You Already Premiere in London last week,where she not only signed, but dedicated it for me.Second sketch, first-rate star!



Drawing: Drew Barrymore

drew barrymore

And now for a bit of functional grammar. I apologise in advance, but I just had to state the obvious. ‘Drew’ is the simple past tense of ‘draw’. It’s also a noun and a verb.I have connected both. I drew Drew-a short sentence that contains a subject and a doing word. Drew Barrymore was the noun and I did the verb thing.  Drew also drew her autograph on my drawing which I drew of Drew. In drawing the line is a key element-the agent of direction, I’ve heard it called. Drew comes from a long and distinguished line of Hollywood stage and screen illuminati, from Lionel, Ethel,John. John again, this time Jr to Drew and beyond. That’s a lot of DNA to draw on, starting with her breakthrough BAFTA-nominated role as Gertie in Steven Spielberg’s ET: The Extra-Terrestial to her most recent film Miss You Already, which had it’s Premiere in London this month. She also writes, directs and produces-it’s in the blood. Along the way she’s picked up her fair share of recognition, including the Golden Globe and SAG Awards for playing ‘Little Edie’ in the TV movie Grey Garden in 2009.

I drew this drawing based on a younger Drew, which I felt was more representational of her well-known facial features. When you see her in the flesh at the Prem, she still has those features. She said “Oh” and smiled then signed.  Some collectors were not happy with her ‘scribble signature’, preferring a fuller name, but I like the distinctive shape. It’s  a quick, simple, initialisation,  forming a decorative ‘heart’  monogram. Drew can certainly draw!

Drawing: Natalie Clein

Natalie Clein

The cello is a member of the violin family…a very big member of the violin family. Although not the biggest, it is the instrument that is the reason for celebrated classical cellist Natalie Clein”s  biggest pet hate, “When I take my cello on a plane, people always ask why I don’t play the flute.” The Brit Award winner isn’t a flautist, she plays one of the biggest members of the violin family and plays it exceptionally well…’mesmerisingly’ and ‘passionately’ well according to The Times. The said cello is a ‘Simpson’ Guadagnini, made in 1777 by the ‘Leonardo Da Vinci  of cello-makers, JB Guadagnini. “I own a small part of it along with 20 other people. It’s like a child, you never really own it, you’re it’s guardian for a while.” she said in a Guardian interview. Speaking of a child, Natalie’s daughter was born last year, so now the large amount of travel makes it more interesting on planes, ‘baby in the front,cello on the back.’

I drew this sketch and left it at the Cadogan Hall in London, where Natalie was performing her latest recording, Saint-Saens: Cello Concerto No 1 with the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra earlier this year.

David Bedella, Ben Forster and Haley Flaherty inThe Rocky Horror Show

Rocky Horror

“Let’s do the Time Warp again!”

The legendary Rocky Horror Show returned to the West End for a short season at the Playhouse Theatre which ends today, ahead of a UK Tour. Creator Richard O’Brien also returned, this time as the Narrator. A firm favourite with theatre-goers, the Christopher Luscombe directed production was extended by an extra week due to demand. Included in the run was a one-off  charity performance with special guests, including Stephen Fry and Emma Brunton in aid of Amnesty International,broadcast live throughout the UK and Europe. Olivier Award winner David Bedella also returned as the lead Frank’n’ Furter after performing in various Rocky productions between 2006 to 2010. He is joined by Ben Forster as Brad, who played the role in the 40th Anniversary UK Tour and Haley Flaherty completes the many happy returns as Janet, after playing her in Singapore, NZ and the UK Tours. All three will not be part of the upcoming British tour.

The show does attract a loyal and dedicated fan-base, who usually gather at the stage door in a variety of cross-dressing guises and nominal drapery in homage to the production. I spent a little bit of time amongst them over the fortnight, securing graphs on my sketches.  At times, more conservative attire made me the oddball and the only one with drawings to sign, even odder. But that’s what the show’s all about-accepting people’s differences and it certainly makes a difference to your day when you harvest a full set of signed sketches.

Drawing: Naomie Harris in Frankenstein at the National Theatre

naomie harris

Naomie Harris will soon be seen on the big screen reprising her role as Eve Moneypenny in the latest Bond film Spectre. London-born with West Indian parents, she was the first black actress to play Moneypenny and the first to get a first name in the previous and 23rd production of the 007 franchise, Skyfall. It was, however, on the biggest stage at the National Theatre in the spring of 2011,  that Naomie made her theatrical debut in the world premiere of Danny Boyle’s staging of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the Olivier Theatre. “I’m very grateful to Danny Boyle.” she said in an interview. “He’s the reason really that I have the career that i have because he took at risk on me and gave me Selena in 28 Days Later.” In Nick Dear’s adaption of the classic novel, Naomie played Victor Frankenstein’s fiancee Elizabeth Lavenza. The title character and the creature were played by Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch who alternated the roles each night. Benedict played the creature when I saw it so I have included him in this sketch. While i did get her autograph on my programme and have a few things signed at premieres, this is my first sketch graphed by her. Nothing intriguing about the signing  provenance. I simply sent it to her London agency. i was very pleased with the result, because due to to circumstances of stage doors and screenings, signatures tend to be done at speed and can become some what of a scribble. This is a clear exemplar of Naomie’s handwriting.

Drawing: Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theat

kinky boots

“There’s no business like shoe business,” was the pun that a few reviewers couldn’t resist using after   Jerry Mitchell’s runaway Broadway hit musical Kinky Boots danced into the Aldephi Theatre in London’s West End this month. Adapted by Harvey Fierstein with songs by veteran pop star and activist Cyndi Lauper, it received 13 Tony nominations, winning six, including Best Musical and Best Score.  Based on the British film of 2005 starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and inspired by true events documented in the BBC’s Trouble at the Top:The Kinky Boot Factory, it tells the tale of  Charlie Price, (Killian Donnelly) the reluctant heir to a struggling Northampton shoe factory.  As he starts laying off some of the staff, one of them, the passionate and quirky Lauren (Amy Lennox) tells him that the only way to survive is to enter an ‘underserved niche market.’ A chance meeting with drag queen Lola (Matt Henry) confirms this and convinces Charlie that there is a future in flashy, thigh-length boots or as she salaciously describes  “two-and-a-half-feet of irresistible tubular sex.”

On the first Saturday after a successful press night I strolled to the stage door in my affordable 4B-pencil grey canvas sneakers-I’m such a slave to fashion-and waited with a sizeable group in a variety of footwear for the cast to emerge after the matinee. I did this sketch of Killian, Matt and Amy and hoped to get it graphed. A number of Lola’s Angels came out still wearing the remnents of stage make-up, so it started to resemble a Pride Parade, as did Matt who was very gracious about the drawing. Killian followed. He had signed a sketch for me before from his Olivier-nominated role in Memphis.Two done,one to go. I don’t think Amy was intending to come down, but Matt told her about my drawing. The security person, in a shiny pair of black boots beckoned me to the door and Amy, who had also previously signed one of my renderings was waiting for me.

Drawing: Kristian Lavercombe in The Rocky Horror Show

kristian L

“It is incredibly daunting. For me he is the ultimate Riff Raff. When everyone thinks of Riff Raff they think of Richard O’Brien,” said Kristian Lavercombe who reprises the role in the limited run of The Rocky Horror Show at London’s Playhouse Theatre before it’s UK tour. Joining him in the cult classic is none other than the man himself. Richard not only created the phenomenon, but was the original stage and screen Riff Raff. He plays the Narrator during the London run. It’s Kristian’s West End ‘bucket list’ debut, but he’s no stranger to the show. Having appeared in the UK 40th Anniversary.the Australian,Korean, Singapore and New Zealand tours, the ‘professional Riff Raff’ has notched up over 900 performances and will soon become the person who has played in Rocky Horror the most times in it’s 42 year history after the UK Tour finishes in 2017. Playing Frank’n Furter’s sidekick isn’t the only role the versatile New Zealander has performed. Called a ‘vocal genius’ by British critic William I.Connolly, Kristian has covered the full gambit from the Son of God in Jesus Christ Superstar to the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, which I incorporated in my montage.

To quote a line from Riff Raff’s signature tune Time Warp, “Madness takes its toll,’ sometimes best describes the autograph collecting circus. Amongst a large group, mostly waiting for Richard at the stage door, I was able to meet the ‘unknown’ Kristian without having to partake in the ritual scrum. He has been involved in productions in my home town in New Zealand for the Invercargill Musical Theatre Company, including Rocky Horror (not as Riff Raff), so we had some common ground for a brief chat as he signed for me Then ‘with a jump to the left and a step to the right’ he went to prepare for the late matinee.

Drawing: Fern Brady

Fern Brady

The Rugby World Cup has just started in the UK and my team, the New Zealand All Blacks are the defending champions. They wear the famous silver fern. So what better way to start the week than with a Fern. In this case it’s the enchanting Scottish comedian Fern Brady. A tenous connection I know, but writers have to look for interesting ‘hooks’ in our intros.   In fact Fern is a writer. She is a columnist in The Guardian and used to be a comedy reviewer. It was in this capacity that she switched sides when asked by her magazine to ‘fake it’ and write an article from the stand-up point of view. She liked it on stage, and everyone liked her on stage,so she stayed. The second most famous person to come out of West Lothian since Susan Boyle, Fern has appeared on the telly in numerous shows, including  8 Out Of 10 Cats. She finished joint third in the finals of So You Think You’re Funny? at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe and was a finalist in the Piccadilly Comedy Club’s New Act Competition the following year. Fresh from a sell-out season at this year’s Edinburgh Festival, Fern returned to London with her show for two nights at the Museum of Comedy. This quaint, 100-seat performance space is situated in the vaults of St George’s Church in Bloomsbury Way, where I waited to have this drawing signed. With the title of her act, People Are Idiots, and described in ThreeWeeks as “Obnoxious, rude and utterly brilliant,’ who teaches you that the only way to true happiness is to lower your expectations, it was with some trepidation that I waited. When I greeted her underground with the request an expletive or two escaped from her lips….but this was, I think more a astonishment for the artwork and “I thought you were the guy organising the gig” she explained as she signed it and took a photo. Undoubtedly the experience confirmed the title of her show.

Drawing: Liv Ullmann on Broadway

Liv Ullmann

“Liv Ullmann is seventy five and flourishing” wrote David Thomson in his interview intro for The New Republic with the Norwegian actress, now celebrated director, discussing her latest project, a film adaption of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie with Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell, which premiered at last year’s Toronto Film Festival.

“She’s not the oldest director with a film screening in the Festival, but she is the best preserved, the most dignified, an icon with clout” said Catherine Shoard in The Guardian.

Liv began her career as a stage actress in Norway during the mid 1950s before becoming the ‘leading lady of Scandi cinema, former muse and partner of Swedish screen supremo Ingmar Bergman, appearing in ten of his most admired films, including The Emigrants and Face to Face, for which she was Oscar nominated.

Bergman’s films with inspirational cinematographer Sven Nykvist are amongst my favourite, especially Cries and Whispers, featuring Liv. She made her Broadway debut in 1975’s production of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, followed by Anna Christie, Ghosts and I Remember Mama during the rest of the decade.

Renowned for her expressive face, ideal for drawing, especially in the theatre, I did this montage of Liv from I Remember Mama and Anna Christie with John Lithgow.

Liv was in London this month to do a Q&A after a screening of Miss Julie at the Mayfair Curzon and I really wanted to meet her in person to sign the sketch, but was unable to. I dropped it off to her London agent in a hope she might still be in town. It arrived back in the mail yesterday, from the US, a welcomed and well travelled work of art.