Drawing: Romola Garai in Measure For Measure

Romola Garai

It’s become a tradition for my wife and I to celebrate our wedding anniversary by taking in a bit of Bard. This year we went to see Joe Hill-Gibbins radical version of Shakespeare’s ‘problematic play’ MEASURE FOR MEASURE at the Young Vic.

It featured Romola Garai as Isabella and opened with the cast emerging from a mass of inflatable sex dolls, not your typical interpretation of Will’s work. The Guardian’s Michael Billington described Romola’s performance as ‘astonishing’.

Her interesting name is the female version of Romulus the founder of Rome and Garai is Hungarian. She has three siblings called Ralph, Roxy and Rosie to complete the alliteration quartet. Interesting name and interesting person with a Master’s Degree in English and she plays the violin.

As a presenter of the Best Male Comedy Performance gong at the 2013 BAFTA TV Awards she prefaced the announcement of the winner by saying, “After the recent birth of my child, I had the misfortune of having 23 stitches in my vagina. So I didn’t think I would be laughing at anything for a long time. But tonight’s nominations have proved me wrong.”

I didn’t get this sketch of Romola as Isabella signed at the theatre because I missed her going out and asked the wrong person! Sometimes the understudies do look similar and I have had the odd identity crisis at stage doors, but the Young Vic have extended the similarities to members of the crew, who was very pleasant about my faux pas. I had no such difficulty at the BFI this week where she was participating in a Q&A after the screening of her latest TV feature CHURCHILL’S SECRET in which she play’s the iconic wartime leader’s nurse. It did help that I was able to differentiate between her and Sir Michael Gambon who plays Churchill.

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Drawing: Harrison Ford as Han Solo

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford has returned to the character that catapulted the star into immortality. The veteran actor reprises the role of Han Solo along with many of the original cast members of the 1977 STAR WARS film in the latest and 7th episode of the behemoth franchise THE FORCE AWAKENS.

I did this sketch of Harrison as Han ages ago for nostalgic reasons and just in case our galaxies collided to get it signed. The force is always strong when he’s around so it’s often difficult battling to get his graph. I missed out on the red carpet at the European Premiere in Leicester Square on Wednesday evening but as I got my lucky break last night.

By chance I was strolling down the alleyway that separates Leicester Square and Chinatown, as one does, when I spied the usual pack of autograph dealers and a collection of silver cars parked at the stage door to the Vue cinema. It was a media screening of the film attended by some cast members including Mr Solo. This was going to be a battle of cosmic proportions – the force of the security pushing me from the front, the siggy SS crushing me from behind. I was stuck in a Star Wars sandwich! When he emerged, things went a bit manic.

Harrison is one actor that does not need to be told to ‘break a leg’ given his horrendous accident on the set that fractured his left peg during filming at Pinewood Studios and then the right was broken in a plane accident. At this point in time it was touch and go as to which limb I was about to snap… not the lucky break I was expecting! From the relative safety of behind the car he calmed the situation, telling everyone to be patient and he would sign for us. I was first with my new sharpie, then he proceeded to sign for the others with the said new sharpie. My last image was Han Solo holding my pen in the back seat of the car as it sped away. I continued my stroll down the alleyway, a smile on my face, great graph in my bag and my sharpie cap in hand.

Drawing: Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong'o

This is what I call an ‘on the run rendering’, a last minute sketch done in a little more than a minute… maybe 5, when I suddenly realised that Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o was attending the European Premiere of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS in London last night, which I was fortunate enough to get a wristband to mingle with the force on the red carpet.

I had drawn a sketch of Lupita from her off Broadway role in ECLIPSED at the Public Theatre earlier this year, but nothing has returned yet, so I thought, never let an ‘in person’ chance go by. I only had time to look up an image on my phone and quickly sketch it on the train heading to the Premiere. I was positioned at the drop off point, but as you would expect with such a large and impressive guest list it was mayhem.

Lupita got out of her car and they took her straight to photo area for the paps to get their pics. Usually not a good sign for graphemes. However she came back and signed for all of us, including this sketch in bronze sharpie no less. For those interested the fashion icon was wearing a Proenza Schouler mess dress … oh yes and metallic blue lipstick.

Drawing: Carlos Acosta

Carlos Acosta

Ballet superstar Carlos Acosta is considered to be the greatest male ballet dancer of his generation. Now, aged 42, he is winding down his virtuoso career and performing a series of farewell performances.

One such event was last week’s CARLOS ACOSTA: A CLASSICAL SELECTION at the London Coliseum. It’s a collection of his favourite pieces from his classical repertoire, accompanied by friends from the Royal Ballet, which he joined in 1998.

In his review for the Guardian, Luke Jennings wrote, “He came from Cuba, from a tough background. He was non-white.There was no haughty androgyny, no pseudo-aristocratic posturing. He just walked on stage, taking calm possession of the space, and you sank back in your seat, knowing that everything was going to be fine.”

Last month a retrospective book, ‘Carlos Acosta at the Royal Ballet’ of his 17 years as its Principal Guest Artist was released.  An excellent subject to draw, I have rendered a few sketches of Carlos over the years, but never managed to get them signed. This one includes him holding the Olivier Award, which he won for Outstanding Achievement in Dance in 2007. I was lucky enough to meet him last Saturday as he was arriving at the Coliseum and he generously signed it for me. A treasured addition to my collection.

Drawing: Verne Troyer

Verne Troyer

He may be one of the smallest men on the planet at 2 foot 8 inches, but he’s one of entertainments biggest names and the nicest celeb you could ever meet. Best known for his role as Mini-Me in the AUSTIN POWERS franchise, Verne is currently playing Lofty the Pirate in the New Wimbledon Theatre’s panto PETER PAN, where he signed my sketch last Saturday.

Drawing: Abigail’s Party

Abigail's Party

Mike Leigh‘s classic portrait of 1970’s suburbia ABIGAIL’S PARTY had its London revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2012 before transferring to the Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End.

Directed by Lindsay Posner it featured a wonderful cast, with Jill Halfpenny as Beverley, Natalie Casey as Angela, Susannah Harker as Sue, Andy Nyman as Laurence and Joe Absolom as Tony. Normally trying to get a drawing signed by a biggish cast can take more than one attempt. On this occasion it was textbook. A balmy Saturday June evening with only a few well-behaved admirers at the stage door as each of the cast filled out just after final curtain at five minute intervals and happily signed this sketch for me. If only they were all like that.

Drawing: The Last Of The Haussmans

The Last of the Haussmans

Gathering a cluster of four star reviews from every major British critic, Stephen Beresford’s debut play THE LAST OF THE HAUSMANNS ran at the National Theatre in London in the latter half of 2012. Directed by Howard Davies, it featured Julie Walters as high society drop-out Judy Hausmann with Rory Kinnear and Helen McCrory as her wayward offspring Nick and Libby.

The darkly humorous family drama ‘explores the fate of the revolutionary generation and offers a funny, touching and at times savage portrait of a family full of longing that’s losing its grip’. I’m a huge fan of all three and was very pleased to receive my signed sketch back after leaving it at the stage door.

Drawing: Nigella Lawson

Nigella Lawson

As you know, in my next life I want to be a chef. In order to prep for that I have included in my list of vices viewing TV cooking programmes and sketching a few of my favourite foodies. I couldn’t miss out one of the most influential food writers and broadcasters, Nigella Lawson.

My opportunity came last night when she was part of The Guardian Live series at London’s Emmanuel Centre, where she was interviewed and introduced her new book, SIMPLY NIGELLA. It was also an excellent opportunity to exercise my festive spirit and buy a copy of her book for my mum’s Chrissie present. I stood in line while the large throng had their copies signed and got the obligatory selfies, reaching her with only a few left in the hall. ‘Oh there’s such an eerie silence now’ she said. That was before I piped up.

As she was signing my book and we were chatting away I asked her if she could also sign my sketch. Awkward moment. She explained that it was not something she could do and the official looking person told me, ‘Books only’. But the festive spirit prevailed and Nigella very kindly said ” I’ll just pop this in the corner,” and she signed a ‘thank you’ and simply ‘Nigella’. And I’ll pop mum’s pressie in the post.

Drawing: Tracy Ann Oberman

Tracey Ann Oberman

I meet Tracy Ann Oberman one Saturday afternoon earlier this year when the sun sometimes shone, (well it wasn’t raining) and the air temperature was very pleasant, as was Tracy-Ann. She was on her way to the matinee of McQUEEN at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, where she was performing the role of Isabella Blow, who discovered the late visionary designer Alexander MCQueen, played by Stephen Wight.

I had drawn two sketches of the award-winning actress, playwright and writer – one was depicting her and Stephen in their respective roles, which Stephen had signed a few minutes earlier and the other was this portrait montage. The weather is important here because the Theatre Royal Haymarket’s uncovered stage door opens out onto a plush little cul-de-sac that can often create its own menacing climate, not condusive  to autograph collecting. On this very pleasant day, however the weather was behaving and everything was fine with the world.

Tracy-Ann liked and signed both drawings, but I think this was her favourite. Then she slipped into the theatre to play the fascinating but ultimately tragic character who appears as a ghost. Such a kind spirit.

Drawing: Toby Jones in Circle Mirror Transformation

Toby Jones

The Royal Court Theatre has, an ‘Open Court’ Programme which takes theatre to the “less-heeled parts of London” as critic Dominic Cavandish likes to call them. One such foray was to the Rose Lipman Building in Haggerston, a former library turned arty community centre on the fringes of Shoreditch, Islington and Dalston.

It was the late Autumn of 2013 when Annie Baker’s quirky comedy about drama-therapy sessions CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION had its U.K. premiere, featuring, among others Imelda Staunton and Toby Jones. I had drawn a sketch of Toby as J.M.M Turner in THE PAINTER when it premiered in the same part of town at the Arcola Theatre in 2011 and had hoped to get it signed by stalking him at the Haggerston venue.

To justify the intrusion and for a bit of pictorial therapy l did this quick rendering of him and Imelda in rehearsal. Toby would relate to this I thought. Years before he became well-known for everything from HITCHCOCK to THE HUNGER GAMES and the House Elf,  Dobby in HARRY POTTER, he had a small bit part as the stalker of Julia Roberts’ character in NOTTING HILL, begging her for an autograph in a cafe. He was so convincing as a creepy fan that even security stopped him on his way to the set. The scene, however  ended up on the cutting room floor, but he did turn it into a play called MISSING REEL which received warm reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe three years later, ending with footage from his unused cameo.

Back to story. The out-of-the-way Rose Lipman Building proved just that. I couldn’t find it, got lost and ran out of time, so resorted to posting the drawings.After some months past I figured the postman didn’t find it either. Then they arrived, both signed along with a graphed 5 x7 and a nice note apologising for the lengthy delay, but he had only just received them. The Royal Mail are more persistent than me.