Drawing: Jim Broadbent as Scrooge

Jim Broadbent

Jim Broadbent, one of Britain’s finest character actors, has returned to the London stage as the seasonal skinflint Scrooge in a new adaption by Patrick Barlow of Dickens’ classic A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the Noel Coward Theatre.

Last seen in THEATRE OF BLOOD at the National, a decade ago, the multi-award-winning actor’s portrayal of Scrooge is more high-spirited than mean-spirited, played with a ‘permanent twinkle in his eye’.

It’s New Year’s honours time and I was reminded of when Jim declined an OBE in 2002, after winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as British critic and writer John Bayley in IRIS. He stated that there were more deserving recipients than actors and the British Empire was not something he wanted to celebrate. But he didn’t decline to sign my sketch and, as usual was very gracious at the stage door.

Drawing: Sofie Hagen in Bubblewrap

Bubblewrap
Sofie Hagen’s intro on her website reads, ‘Welcome to my website. If you don’t know me, I’m a Danish stand-up comedian, writer and extraordinarily nice person.’ All true. The 27 year old, Copengagen-born, London-based comic made an impressive debut at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, winning the Best Newcomer Award with BUBBLEWRAP, an engrossing, entertaining and candid romp through her life that had its foundations in a teenage obsession with Irish boy-band Westlife.
It touches on the themes such as body issues, mental health and feminism, that have become de rigueur in contemporary comedy, dragging the once taboo into the mainstream. The Guardian described her as having “an easy charm and an ability to combine delicate subject matter with accessible laughs.” It was early last year that she had her ‘awakening’, where her long-held insecurities faded away and she finally learned to accept what she thought were flaws and love herself for all her quirks. She said she  became a happier person and a better comedian. Her epiphany came when a man asked her to urinate on him during sex in the shower. I believe social anthropologists would include Sofie in what they have termed ‘generation overshare’.
This month Sofie bought BUBBLEWRAP to London’s Soho Theatre, where I caught up with the ‘extraordinarily nice person’ after Monday evening’s show. The audience clearly enjoyed it. One woman remarked that she was very brave, dealing with the difficult themes. Dealing with stalking, signature-hunting, scribblers may be added to that list, but since she stated that, “comedy is the one thing that makes sense in her life” I was confident she would see the funny side and happily sign the sketch. I was right.

Drawing: MyAnna Buring and Laura Donnelly in The Wasp

The Wasp

The Tarantula Hawk is a wasp that lays an egg in a spider’s abdomen, hatching a larvae that feeds on the arachnid’s innards avoiding the vital organs to ensure they remain a living host until it is ready to emerge. It is reference to Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s electric triller THE WASP, which has transferred to the Trafalgar Studio’s intimate 100-seater number 2 space after a sell-out season at the Hampstead Theatre earlier this year.

MyAnna Buring reprises the role of Carla and replacing Sinead Matthews is Laura Donnelly as Heather. Two women who haven’t seen each other since school. The rough Carla is married to a man thirty years her senior and heavily pregnant with her fifth child. Heather is glamorous, successful and happily married. It asks in 90 minutes with two plot twists and a ‘gobsmaking ending’, how far beyond the playground we carry our childhood experiences and how people are willing to go in order to come to terms with them.

“A taunt, brilliantly calibrated two-handed, which takes pleasure in shocking its audience” wrote The Stage’s Natasha Tripney in her four-star review. I met MyAnna and Laura as they emerged from the Trafalgar Studios stage door to an unseasonably mild winter’s evening and both signed my sketch, adding some kind comments.

Drawing: Ilie Nastase

Ilie Nastase

I had always wanted to meet Romanian tennis legend Ilie Nastase and naturally collect his autograph. An opportunity presented itself at this year’s ATP World Tour Finals in London’s 02 Arena last month. Nicknamed ‘Nasty’, he was anything but, in fact he was one of the nicest sportsmen I have met. Ilie was a special guest  of the ATP at this year’s event and as a four-time winner they had named a singles pool after him.

One of the most naturally gifted players in the history of the sport and known as a ‘tennis magician’ because of his ‘racket  sorcery’, he was also renowned for his ability to entertain. “l had a reputation for misbehaving on court, but I did it with humour and a smile.” he said. Ilie was one of the dominate players of the 1970’s rising to Number 1 in 1973.

He is one of only five players to have won more than 100 ATP professional titles including the French and US singles crowns and reached the Wimbledon final twice, losing to Stan Smith in a tight five-setter in 1972 (a match he considers his finest) and Bjorn Borg in 1976.

My two-pronged mission was to continue the arduous task of getting my World #1’s book graphed and if possible a sketch. I drew this one quickly and was going to do another with a bit more effort but ran out of time. Besides it had a ‘free energy’ about the lines which seemed appropriate given the subject. As a veteran of this annual year-ending event I knew the right spot to position myself and when he arrived on the final Saturday with his daughters he took the time to complete my mission… with humour and a smile.

Drawing: Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo

Alexandra and Herman

Italian Prima Donna Alessandra Ferri returned to the Royal Opera House in October this year at the age of 52. She was joined by Argentine and Principal of the American Ballet Theatre Herman Cornejo to perform acclaimed American choreographer Martha Clarke’s CHERI at the Linbury Studio.

Based on the novels of Colette it tells the tale of a doomed love affair between a woman and a man half her age. This is a sketch of them both in rehearsal which they both signed for me. Alessandra also signed another one, which I posted earlier. Dancers are such great drawing subjects!

Drawing: Hannah Boyde in Fuenteovejuna

Hannah Boyde

One of the great things about theatre in London is the myriad of small spaces where independent productions are performed. One such place is the CLF Arts Centre in Peckham where Daniel Goldman’s Tangram company staged a ‘rapturous re-interpretation of one of Spain’s classics’, FUENTEOVEJUNA in the heat of the summer of 2013. Written in 1619 by the country’s most celebrated playwright of the time, Lope de Vega it is based on a true chronicle of a small village by the same name that is oppressed by an evil Comendador. On entering the theatre the audience immediately becomes part of the town as its ‘new members.’

My wife and I joined the membership one sunny Sunday afternoon. Playing the mayor’s daughter and resisting the tyrant’s advances was the accomplished Hannah Boyde, who’s theatre credits includes the National’s WAR HORSE. I drew this sketch of her in the role at the time, which she actually signed a year later when she appeared in Daniel’s production of THE DRAGON at the Southwark Playhouse, this time playing a Mayor.