Drawing: Diana Rigg as Emma Peel

Diana Rigg

Described as one of the UK’s most cherished actors, Dame Diana Rigg, best known to global TV audiences as Emma Peel, the leather catsuit clad sidekick to secret agent John Steed (played by the lat Patrick Macnee) and unofficial undercover operative that fuelled the fantasies of schoolboys around the world in The Avengers.

Her name is a play on the phrase “Man Appeal” or M. Appeal, one of the required elements of the character. In 2002 she was voted the sexiest TV star ever and Michael Parkinson described her in his 1972 interview as the “most desirable woman he ever met” who “radiated a lustrous beauty”.

Not everyone found her appealing, however. In her book and subsequent stage show, No Turn Unstoned in which she revisits actors worst theatrical reviews, including her own nude appearance in A Belard And Heloise; “Miss Rigg is built like a brick basilica with insufficient flying buttresses”.

She left The Avengers to appear in the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) playing the Contessa Teresa “Tracy” Draco di Vicenzo Bond, the only 007 girl to marry the commitment-phone spy.

Dame Diana was at the BFI last Sunday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Emma Peel phenomenon with a discussion after the screening of The Avengers’ episode entitled The House That Jack Built. She signed my sketch of her in her “Peel” days.

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Drawing: Bus King Theatre

bus king theatre

Travelling home on the Tube the other day, amilessly flicking through the Evening Standard I was captivated by an article entitled Fare Play-Husband and Wife Team Turn Rusting Double Decker Bus Into Puppet Theatre. Puppeters are very cool and Cesare and Athena Maschi looked like the coolist. I have always been fascinated with puppertry, especially marionettes,  growing up on a diet of Gerry Anderson’s ‘Supermarionation’ TV shows such as Thunderbirds and Stingray. Some therapists call it ‘Pinocchio envy.’  The Bus King Theatre is stationed this week at the Spitalfields Market near London’s Liverpool Station for the school half-term break. They are performing three shows a day in the ‘lovingly re-purposed’ Routemaster bus, with the lower deck converted into a theatre for 25-30 people and the upper for puppetry workshops. The Maschi’s spent three years looking for the ‘perfect’ bus, which they eventually found in a friend’s field. ‘I love buses and had this romantic idea of owning one and when you go inside it is a theatre,” Athena told the reporter. I had always threatened to draw puppeters before, but it was a theatrical art that had escaped the visual interrogation of my 4B pencil. I was struck by a sudden urge of ‘superspontanioussketching’ and quicky drew this based on the pics that accompioned the article, then hiked it to Spitalfields for the sig-nification.

As I imagined Cesare and Athena were supercool.  It’s not everyday someone just rocks up asking you to sign their scribble, but they took it in their stride. Marionettist’s are like that. This sketch is now signed by the hands that pull the strings, giving life to so many puppet persons. Check them out at http://www.buskingtheatre.London, or go see them live when the bus stops near you.

Drawing: Daniel Craig in A Steady Rain

Daniel craig

Becoming the sixth actor to play Ian Fleming’s fictional British secret agent James Bond has made him a household name, but Daniel Craig actually started his career ‘treading the boards’, after graduating from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1991. His first film role was in fact 007 in the 2006 instalment, Casino Royale.He returned to the stage in 2009, debuting on Broadway in A Steady Rain alongside fellow A-Lister Hugh Jackman at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre or Theater as they like to spell it. The 12 week engagement  about two Chicago policemen who inadvertently return a Vietnamese boy to a cannibalistic serial killer believing him to be his uncle was a critical and commercial success. TIME magazine placed the production in it’s Top 10 plays of that year, ranking it second. He is due to play Iago in Othello next year.

On a somewhat bigger stage was the World Premiere of the latest Bond movie, Spectre, at  London’s Royal Albert Hall, attended by all the cast, creatives and their HRH’s Wills, Kate and Harry. As perms go this is about as big as it gets. Daniel would be attending naturally, so it presented a chance for me to get this sketch of him and Hugh in A Steady Rain graphed. The event was on Sunday evening. I was in the area the day before and found out that they were making a list for the wristbands. I put my name on it in the 34th position…not a good one if you’re a Formula One driver, but excellent for taking front row at a premiere. However…there’s always an ‘however’ at these things, when I returned the next day, an hour before I was told to, the bands had all been dispensed, including my number 34. I won’t go into the ‘discussions’ that followed. In the end I was given number 0500…not a number that filled me with confidence to get 007’s sig on my sketch. As you can imagine the red carpet for this was very long. The situation did eliminate the dilemma of  where to stand. I got told where to go. I managed to secure a place second row on the grid near the paps. Daniel has always thought of his portrayal of Bond as an ‘anti-hero’. “Am I a good guy,or just a bad guy who works for a good side?” he once said. I guess most assassins face this question all the time. However, on a mild Autumnal night he was definitely a good guy and on the right side..the side I was on! Actually he did both sides as you would expect a spy to do. I asked him  if he could dedicate it ‘to Mark’ for me, and he penned,’M’, which as Bond specialists know is the also the code name for his boss in MI16. After Daniel signed he suddenly realised and said, “Oh sorry that’s over Hugh” I assured him it was fine, Hugh will do the same over you, one day. Not a bad outcome in the end for 0500.

Drawing: Sonny Bill Williams

sonny bill williams

A photo of All Black impact weapon Sonny Bill Williams consoling his opposite number Jesse Kriel and helping him to his feet after the New Zealanders nail biting 20-18 win over the Springboks in the World Rugby Cup semi-final thriller at Twickenham last weekend went global, adding a poignant perspective to sporting rivalries. It was reminiscent of another Kiwi show of sportsmanship this year, also in a World Cup semi-final and also against South Africa. Black Caps all-rounder Grant Elliot, who hit the winning runs was photographed consolling the Proteas quick Dale Steyn after the epic match.

Sonny Bill told Jesse that he had nothing but respect for him and that he had played well throughout the tournament and will be around for many more.After the game he said that the result could have gone either way and that could have been us. Fellow AB Liam Neeson tweeted in admiration, “Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them.” It was not Sonny Bill’s only act of compassion. The first Muslim to play for the All Blacks offered his player tickets to Syrian refugees. While he may divide public opinion back in New Zealand, I’m sure all us kiwis both at home and abroad have nothing but admiration for him this week.

Not quite on the same humanitarian level, but equally appreciated by me was his signing and ‘best wishes’ dedication on this sketch, which AB manager Darren Shand organised for me.  The original is drawn with my trusty 4B, which is a soft lead and prone to smudging. Sometimes when people are signing they indadvertedly do this, but generally leave it as part of the process. Sonny Bill’s right eye on the left image got the treatment, but who am i to argue with a champion boxer.  I’m hoping the very hand used  will produce a trademark offload against Austraila in this weekend’s Final and hold the Webb Ellis Cup as World Champions again. If not, I still have a great sporting trophy of my own.

Drawing: Monica Bellucci

Monica Bellucci

“I’m not a Bond girl, I am a Bond woman,” said Monica Bellucci. The 51 year-old Italian actress who became the oldest ‘love interest’ in the James Bond franchise with her role as Lucia Sciarra in the 24th and latest instalment, Spectre. It’s been quite a topic of conversation in the media as the World Premiere was held at the Royal Albert Hall in London last night. Fittingly Monica took the honour from Honor Blackman who played the character with the most sensational name, Pussy Galore opposite Sean Connery in Goldfinger at the age of 38. She thinks we should stop using the term ‘Bond girl’. “Age is just a number like 007,” she said. Even Bond himself, Daniel Craig, who is only three years younger, weighed in, when asked in a recent interview about ‘succumbing to charms of an older woman,’ he replied, “I think you mean the charms of a woman his own age.” He continued by saying that if someone like that wants to be a ‘Bond girl’, you count yourself lucky.  I did Monica’s quote when asked ‘why?’ to her comment that  “Bond is an amazing man.” She simply said, ” Because he doesn’t exist.”

She certainly didn’t look her age in the flesh, so to speak at the World Prem. The PAs zig-zag the cast and creatives up the wide and long runway which creates a bit of a lottery, but I was fortunate enough to on the zag or more likely the zig for sig where she signed and dedicated my sketch. A fleeting bonding with, like Daniel, a woman my own age.

Drawing: Charlotte Church

Charlotte Church

It’s Sunday, Church time… Charlotte that is. Her debut film Under Milk Wood was having it’s London premiere at the bohemian Rio Cinema in Hackney. The Kevin Allen helmed adaption of Dylan Thomas’s 1954 radio play and presumably a ‘remodelling’ of the 1972 Burton-Taylor film marked the Welsh singer’s first foray into film acting and she was scheduled to appear along with the lead, fellow Welsh person Rhys Ifans. It’s a peculiar story (a bit like this one) about a day in the life of a small, Welsh fishing village called Llareggub (read it backwards).

I drew this sketch of Charlotte, so had a pretty good idea of what she looks like. Loitering with intent outside the theatre, which had no barriers or carpet, security or even people of like-mind. I waited for her to arrive. What I didn’t know was that on Friday she had dyed her hair purple and appeared on a UK TV show saying it was her ‘mermaid’ look for a couple of days until it washed out. I was not looking for purple locks and it was only when I checked with one of the leaving paps who showed me his pics that I realised I had missed her.

The film started, so I thought I would ask a friendly person who looked like someone who would know if Charlotte was staying for the entire film. He didn’t know. “Are you a friend?” he asked. “Not yet,” I quipped. “Where are you from?” he continued. Now there are various ways of answering that. I simply gave him my country of origin, then said I would come back when the movie ended, to which he indicated that they would have no time as he had to rush her away. He did inquire about my purpose. A fair and reasonable question.

Now this is a genetic flaw in my make up – my denial that I am an ‘autograph collector’. It’s difficult admitting that, so the question went unanswered. Clearly I was not making a good impression.  I then stationed myself outside the cinema. He and some of the others, who obviously had something to do with the evening’s event left for a local restaurant. The film finished and everyone exited, including Charlotte and her purple hair. No sign of my interrogator. Bonus… so I moved my way through the leaving patrons and asked Charlotte if she wouldn’t mind signing my sketch. She was really nice and liked the drawing. While she was signing it, I asked her about the film. She simply said “It’s cooooool”, like her really.

Drawing: Frances Barber

francis barber

Picasso had his ‘Blue’ period, I had my ‘black Bic biro’ one. The fine point version is very versatile, building up layers with cross-hatching, or in my case ‘scribble-hatching’. This drawing of the alluring English actress Frances Barber and her enticing evening gloves is an example. However, the medium is not always ideal for rendering certain textures such as black latex with it defining ‘shimmers’, so it turned into more of a doodling exercise emptying the ink of one ballpoint overworking the gloves. It worked for her hair though. Actually I found out that Frances’s most treasured possession is a piece of artwork, a painting of her adored bulldog  Smack, who she had for 11 years. While not in the same revered class, she didn’t mind mind signing my sketch of the doodled-fur gloves for me during her run in Les Parents Terribles at London’s Trafalgar Studios in 2010.

Drawing: Ed Sheeran

ed sheeran

My daughter Andrea is a huge Ed Sheeran fan. She said to me that a signed drawing would be very cool. She lives in New Zealand and got to go to his gig there. I live in London, so she figured I might have a better chance to fulfil her request. Now I have to confess, I’m not an Ed disciple, but I did this very quick profile sketch one day last year because there was a chance to get it signed at an event in London. That passed without success.

Ed’s early career was spent sleeping on friends’ sofas and dreaming of playing the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. He is now one of the most streamed singers on the internet and selling out Wembley Stadium for three nights during his  Tour earlier this year. His debut concert film, Jumpers for Goalposts has just been released, documenting his meteoric rise to fame. The World Premiere was held last night at London’s Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square, with Ed attending and playing. This presented me with my second chance and this time lucky. He was great with all the fans… and me, doing the whole line, mostly posing for selfies and the occasional sig which he scribed on the sketch. While waiting, I listened to his music and I have to say it wasn’t half bad. My daughter has taste and now a signed drawing, Royal Mail willing.

Drawing: Alessandra Ferri, Prima Ballerina Assoluta

alessandra ferri

Italian dancer Alessandra Ferri is a prima ballerina assoluta.To share my expanding knowledge on dance, that is a title awarded to the most notable female dancers. It is a rare  honour, reserved only for the most exceptional artists of their generation. The ‘hauntingly beautiful’ Alessandra began her climb to the pinnacle of ballet when she joined The Royal Ballet at the age of 15. Four years later she became one of its youngest Principal dancers. A small staue of her as Juliet stands in the Royal ballet school in her honour. After a six-year sabbatical, she returned, at the age of 52, to her Covent Garden roots to perform a ‘mesmerising comeback’ in Wayne Mc Gregor’s Woolf Works. Only a handful of ballerinas have danced in their 50’s. The Royal Ballet said Alessandra is the oldest to take a leading role, “en pointe and of this physicality” since the legendary Margot Fonteyn, who danced until she was sixty. Early this month the double Olivier Award winner joined one of the stars of American ballet, Argentine Herman Cornego in Martha Clarke’s adaption of Colette’s obsessive love story Cheri in the Royal Opera’s Linbury Studio. The Observer’s dance critic  Luke Jennings was full of admiration, concluding his review with ‘Cheri is about the cruelty of time; Ferri’s career tells another, happier story,”

This is one of two sketches I drew-the other was Alessandra and Herman rehearsing Cheri.They signed for me after the final performance.

Drawing: Cate Blanchett in Big and Small

Cate Blanchett

Listed amongst one of Cate Blanchett’s trivia pages is ‘Enjoys making lists and crossing items off as she accomplishes them.’ This sketch has been on my list to get signed by the two-time Academy award winner since she performed Big and Little (Gross ind Klein) at the Barbican in April 2012. It probably wasn’t on Cates.  When it was first staged in London in 1983, Botho Strauss’s surreal play was meet with boos and walkouts. Critics called the three hour long play a ‘punishing’ piece of avant-garde theatre. This new English adaption by Martin Crimp had a much better reception this time round. The Guardian’s Michael Billington wrote, “one  of the most dazzling, uninhibited performances I’ve ever seen, suggests a garrulous angel who doesn’t quite belong to earth.”

Anyway back to lists.  As mentioned, since the spring of 2012 I have tried to get this drawing signed. In fact this is part of a trilogy-a concept familiar to Cate and her role in certain Peter Jackson Middle Earth blockbusters. I drew 3 sketches based on Big and Small. One I left at the theatre and two I kept in case our paths should cross. The theatre triplet has not reappeared. I’m not sure why I had drawn two others and the reason has never bothered to clarify itself. Opportunities have presented themselves over the past three years, but that’s all they’ve done. This year Cate was to be presented with the BFI Fellowship at the London Film Festival. Plus,she was attending two screenings. A trilogy of chances to get a sketch signed. First one came and went. The second, at the Truth prem worked. I didn’t ask if it was on her list, but I can now cross it off mine.