Drawing: Samantha Spiro and Simon Paisley Day in The Taming of the Shrew

Samantha Spiro Simon Paisley Day The Taming of the Shrew

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW is Shakespeare’s most outrageous comedy. One of theatre’s great screwball double-acts with a couple hell-bent on confusing and out-witting each other. First performed in London in the 1590’s, it was farcical and probably hilarious to Elizabethans, but it’s message of ‘taming’ a woman  with a fiery personality and making her subservient to her husband does not always sit well with modern audiences.

Toby Frow’s  production for The Globe in the summer of 2012 featured double-Olivier Award-winning actress Samantha Spiro as Katherina and Simon Paisley Day as Petruchio. It Included  the ‘induction’ by the character, Christopher Sly who takes to the stage as Petruchio, so the ‘play-within-a-play’ is more a fantasy, wishful thinking rather than reality, tempering the misogynistic theme. The Guardian’s Michael Billington wrote as “both actors go at it hammer and tongs” throughout the entire play that this is a “…knockout Shrew that doesn’t go in for much psychological depth and presents Katherina’s final speech of submission without irony.”

Jane Shilling in The Telegraph describes Samantha’s Kath as “a compact, muscular spitfire whose gentlewoman’s education has evidently included self-defence classes”, as she drops her suitor to the ground on their first encounter.

I ‘drew the Shrew’ with this in mind, but never got it signed… until… as per chance, both actors were on the London stage over this Christmas period past But alas, not on the same stage. Samantha was in A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the Noel Coward and Simon in THE LORAX across the Thames at the Old Vic. Still that’s why there’s seven days and nights in a week and it took two of them to complete the mission.

Drawing: Anna Karina

Anna Karina

As part of the three-month ‘Jean-Luc Godard’ season at the British Film Institute on London’s Southbank, his muse and first wife, actress, model, singer, writer and director, Anna Karina was a special guest on Saturday. Regarded as the most influential and radical of the French ‘La Nouvelle Vague’ (New Wave) Godard challenged the conventions of traditional Hollywood and French cinema in the 1960’s and 70’s. He was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 2010, but did not appear in person to collect it.

At the age of 17 Hanne Karin Blarke Bayer hitch-hiked from her native Copenhagen, arriving in Paris, poor and unable to speak the local language. While sitting at the trendy ‘Les Deux Magots’, an advertising  agent approached her to do some photos. The cafe was considered the ‘hotbed of the artistic and intellectual elite of the day’, whose regulars included Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway.  She went on to model for Pierre Cardin and Coco Chanel, who helped devise her professional name Anna Karina. Godard first noticed her in the Palmolive soap ads, which depicted her in a bathtub covered in bubbles. She featured in seven of the French auteur’s films, including UNE FEMME EST UNE FEMME in 1960, for which she was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival. Anna worked with other directors, including George Cukor, Tony Richardson, Franco Brusati and Andre Delvaux. She is also an accomplished singer, with major hits.’Sous Le Soleil Exactement’ and ‘Roller Girl’, stage actress and writer with four novels published.

Anna participated in Q+A sessions for BANDE A PART (1964) and VIVRE SA VIE (1962) as well as introducing LE MEPRIS (1963) on Saturday. She also introduced SINGING IN THE RAIN’ (1952) on Sunday as part of the BFI’s Screen Epiphany series. It was a busy schedule for the 75 year old, but when she arrived she graciously took the time to sign a string of vintage memorabilia for a handful of admirers and my sketch.

Drawing: Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

Leo Dicaprio

After five acting Academy Award nominations, Leonardo DiCaprio is this year’s clear front-runner to collect the elusive golden gong for his portrayal of legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass in THE REVENANT. With 12 nominations, including Best Picture and already collecting three top Golden Globe Awards, the film is set to continue that success at next month’s Oscars.

Leonardo has previously signed a drawing for me, but I was giving the 4B a bit of a workout early this week and the latest Empire mag happened to be lying at my desk, open at an article I had finished reading about Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s epic western adventure. Since the UK Premiere was scheduled for the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square on Thursday with Leo attending, I thought, “why not?” and scribbled this montage.

Thursday was cold… very cold… and got colder as the talent arrivals drew near. Standing for three hours was cause to question my motivation… as I often do these days. The crowded pens did offer some consolation, a hint of body heat, but not much. By the look of the film and from what I read about Leonardo’s physical endurance during the making of it, the air temperature was probably a tad on the tropical side for him. The man himself duly arrived and as usual ‘did the line’, including my sketch with his distinctive and precise (Leo holds the sharpie very close to the tip… probably the closest of all the A-listers) graph.

Drawing: Matthew Perry in ‘The End of Longing’

matthew-perry

Matthew Perry’s debut play as a writer, THE END OF LONGING starts its run at London’s Playhouse Theatre early next month. It marks Matthew’s first return to the West End since 2003 when he appeared in the acclaimed SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO, directed by Lindsay Posner, who returns to helm this production.

While that’s very good news for London theatre-goers, it’s not so good for fans of FRIENDS, ending speculation of getting all six cast members of the hit series together in person for next month’s reunion in the planned NBC tribute to veteran director James Burrows.

Matthew is joined on stage by Lloyd Owen, Christina Cole and Jennifer Mudge in this ‘hilarious dark comedy’ about four people searching for meaning as they enter their forties during one crazy night in an LA bar.

I managed to catch up with Matthew as he popped out for a ciggy break from rehearsals this week ahead of the 2 February opening and my siggy break to get this sketch signed.

Drawing: Dominic West, Janet McTeer and Elaine Cassidy in Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Les Liasions Dangereuses

Two hundred years after Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ sizzling and scandalous epistolary novel LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES slipped into pre-Revolutionary France, Christopher Hamption’s lauded and awarded adaption for both stage and screen appeared, collecting an Oscar, BAFTA and an Olivier Award in the process.  It’s the tale of sex, intrigue and betrayal between two jealously-fuelled aristocrats (and ex-lovers), the Marquisede Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont use of seduction to degrade and humiliate others, in this case  the virtuous and beautiful Madame de Tourvel. Critic, Dominic Cavendish summed -up the plot in The Telegraph “The destruction of purity and innocence, the cynical pursuit of pleasure at the expense of others’ pain, vice unbounded, yet kept within the impressive mask of civilised decorum.”

A  ‘heady and intoxicating’ 30th Anniversary revival, directed by Josie Rourke is currently playing at London’s Donmar Warehouse featuring Janet McTeer, Dominic West and Elaine Cassidy in their respective leads roles.

The Independent’s veteran critic Paul Taylor wrote Dominic’s Valmont is a “seductive sociopath and erotomane who uses strategy as foreplay with a hotline between increasingly active brain and insatiable genitals” He describes Janet as  “drop-dead striking …(who)  insinuates and machinates in a  breathy, mocking manner, her eyes a-glare with sinisterly circumspection and latent with injury”, and Elaine “superbly communicates a state of growing feverish chastity.”

 

Drawing: Hangmen

Hangmen 2

After a 12-year hiatus writing for the stage, London-born Irish playwright Martin
McDonagh returns to theatre, which he described in The Observer as the ‘worst of all artforms’. If that’s the case, he’s doing his best to mock that  statement with his latest dark comical  offering, HANGMEN, a savage satire on the justice and punishment system – ‘the grimmer side of the swinging sixties’.

Described by one reviewer as a cross between Harold Pinter’s ‘linguistic gamesmanship’ and Joe Orton’s ‘gallows humour’, it’s the Olivier, Oscar and BAFTA winner’s first play set in England, in a small pub in Oldham in 1965 to be precise. Receiving rave reviews and a cluster of five-stars after it’s sell-out run at the Royal Court earlier last year, the production transferred to the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre and is scheduled to finish in March this year.

What’s Harry Wade, the second-best hangman in England to do on the day they’ve abolished hanging? A reporter and the regular tavern sycophants want to know his reaction, as a peculiar stranger lurks amongst them with a very different motive. Led by David Morrissey as Wade, the outstanding cast includes Andy Nyman, Johnny Flynn, Sally Rogers, Bronwyn James, Ryan Pope, Simon Rouse, Craig Parkinson, Tony Hirst, John Hodgkinson,James Dryden and Josef Davis.
With such a large  ensemble, it took more than one sketch to fit them all in and more than one attempt to get it graphed. At this point I thought of resisting the term ‘hanging around stage doors’. But I didn’t. If it’s good enough for distinguished critics like Dominic Cavendish to write “doesn’t loosen it’s grip from start to finish,” and Paul Taylor to say “drop-dead hilarious… perfectly executed,” then I’m in good company. And speaking of good company, the HANGMEN cast were excellent on and off the stage.

Hangmen

Drawing: Ben Jones as Messala in Ben Hur

Ben Jones Ben Hur

As promised in my previous BEN HUR post I have now put the Ben into BEN HUR. As you will recall the other three members – John Hopkins, Alix Dunmore and Richard Durden signed my sketch at the North London’s Tricycle Theatre last week. I threatened to return with a sketch of the missing fourth member of the quartet who are currently enthralling sell-out audiences in Patrick Barlow’s follow-up to his West End hit adaption of THE 39 STEPS with this pocket-sized interpretation of the 50’s biblical film hit. Ben plays Messala (yes… and as one reviewer put it, the wait for the ‘Messala chicken’ line is rapidly rewarded), a pouting Roman soldier who betrays Ben Hur, among others characters including a ‘particularly nice turn as Jesus with a bad black wig’. Messala and Messiah- sounds like an ancient pop duo.

Anyway, here’s Ben on his own as Messala which he signed for me last night so that completes my BEN HUR set. Ben there, done that. Ouch.

Drawing: Geoffrey Rush in King Lear

Geoffrey Rush

One of my favourite films is SHINE in which Geoffrey Rush won a truck-load of awards, including the Academy Award for his portrayal of pianist David Helfgott in 1997. He’s one of the few people to have collected the ‘Triple Crown of Acting’ – an Oscar, Emmy and a Tony – covering the big screen, small screen and the stage’s highest accolades. But, Geoffrey was in no rush (sorry) to take to the big screen. A ‘late bloomer’ who was 44 before embarking on his movie career. He’s has made up for it since. “I’m a stage actor, I was rolling along in theatre and having a good time. Movies was not where I was heading”.  Then his career turned a sudden corner with SHINE and, as he put it, “over indulged in cinema” and dropped out of theatre for a decade.

That all changed after a chance meeting with celebrated British director Stephen Daldry, who rekindled his theatrical roots. Having played the Fool twice in a 30 year journey with  Shakespeare’s KING LEAR, Geoffrey finally takes on the title role in the Sydney Theatre  Company’s production directed by long-time friend and collaborator Neil Armfield. It is “the greatest play in the English language, certainly Shakespeare’s greatest achievement,” Geoffrey said.

“Capturing characters whose estimation of themselves is completely out of step with reality is Rush’s metier. He does good self-delusion, particularly because he has within his Arsenal the vulnerability and anguish of someone when their delusions are punctured,” wrote Dee Jefferson in TimeOut.

I did this montage of Geoffrey expressing Lear’s pathos as the ‘wonderfully pathetic ex-King,” and mailed it to him in Australia. I noticed that there is my namesake, another ‘Mark Winter’ in the cast. Mark Leonard Winter plays Edgar, described in Dee’s four-star review as ” thrillingly on the verge… who appears to have gone mad in the process of going mad,” – a state I am familiar with, collecting signed sketches has its drawbacks. Maybe Geoffrey thought it was his fellow thespian, taking up his 4B pencil in a moment of admiration and gladly complied with the signing request, before realising that it was the ‘other’ Mark Winter. Returning it to the UK may have been a giveaway. Maybe not.

KING LEAR finishes tomorrow at the Roslyn Packer Theatre in Sydney.