Drawing: Lazy Susan

Lazy Susan

What better subject to sketch than a sketch show. Writers-performers Celeste Dring and Freya Parker form the double act LAZY SUSAN, whose EXTREME HUMANS was one of the ‘buzz’ shows at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. They were nominees for the Best Newcomer Award. According to the descriptions on their ‘About’ page, Celeste is the tallest member of the duo and Freya is the shortest. They perform character driven comedy. “Sometimes it gets dark, sometimes it’s just a cowboy and a dog singing a Rihanna song.”

The double act returned to the Soho Theatre in London earlier this month with their second sell-out show, cunningly called DOUBLE ACT and signed my sketch.

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Drawing: Emma Williams, Rhiannon Chesterman and Katrina Kleve in Mrs Henderson Presents

Mrs Henderson Presents

Terry Johnson’s musical stage adaption of the 2005 film MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS that featured Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, premiered at the Theatre Royal Bath last August and has transferred to London’s Noel Coward Theatre.

Olivier winner Tracie Bennett plays the eccentric 70 year-old widow Laura Henderson, who buys turns the London’s famous Windmill cinema into a live theatre, staging continuous variety revues at the beginning of the First World War. When her competition threatens to put her out of business, Mrs Henderson introduced female nudity, which was unprecedented in the UK at the time and based it on the Moulin Rouge in Paris. The Lord Chamberlain reluctantly agreed to the nudity under the condition that the performers remain immobile, thus becoming living works of art, similar to nude statues.

Olivier-nominated Emma Williams, along with Rhiannon Chesterman and Katrina Kleve are the show’s poster girls, perfect sketching subjects. I left this drawing at the theatre for them to sign which they kindly did.

Drawing: Ursula Martinez in Free Admission

Ursula Martinez

For Ursula Martinez ,”genre doesn’t really hold. Her shows are fairly uncategorisable,” said Matt Trueman in The Guardian. “She is in that sweet spot where comedy, cabaret and theatre intersect.”

The London-based Anglo-Spanish and Olivier Award winning ‘performance provocateur’ and cult cabaret diva has just completed a two-week run at the Soho Theatre of FREE ADMISSION. It grew out of feedback from her previously acclaimed MY STORIES, YOUR EMAILS, incorporating her unique style of self-depreciation, baring her soul and more.

I managed to catch a fully clothed Ursula at the Soho after her final performance on Saturday where she signed this sketch for me.

Drawing: Hand to God

Hand to God

Described as Sesame Street meets The Exorcist, the irreverent puppet comedy HAND OF GOD took Broadway by storm last year, earning five Tony Nominations, including Best New Play. Robert Askin’s irreligious, satanic hand puppet hit has now transferred to the West End and possessed the Vaudeville Theatre. The London website sums up the plot. One dead father. One messed up family. One girl who wants help. One school bully who always gets his own way. One out of control hand puppet. Recently widowed Margery (Janie Dee) with a penchant for rough sex is encouraged by the randy minister Pastor Greg (Neil Pearson) to run a Christian puppetry workshop-The Christketeers – to spread the gospel in Cypress,Texas. It’s members of which include her son Jason (Harry Melling), the strange girl next door, Jessica (Jemima Rooper) who Jason has a crush on and neighbourhood troublemaker Timmy (Kevin Mains). Enter Tyrone, Jason’s devil-doll that acquires a separate identity turning into a foul-mouthed, unruly sock puppet who believes he’s Satan and takes possession of Jason’s left hand.

“You want the Devil? I’ll give you The Devil”, as his polycotton head spins 360 degrees.

As you could imagine, an interesting collection of characters to meet at the stage door to get my sketch signed. The hand of God had a bit to do with it. This is the second drawing I did. The first succumbed to the elements. A week back,as I was sheltering under some historical edifice and sorting sketches for the impending stalk, a gust of wind transported a few of them into the only muddy puddle within London’s Square Mile. HAND TO GOD was one of them. This replacement was subjected to a few sprinkles on Saturday, as I waited at the Vaudeville. Thankfully the cast were much nicer than the weather and nothing like their stage personae. Harry even left Tyrone in the dressing room and signed with his non-possessed hand. God knows what Tyrone would do with a sharpie!

Drawing: David Troughton in Goodnight Mister Tom

David Troughton

Veteran stage and screen actor David Troughton returned to the West End to play the title character, elderly recluse Tom Oakley in the stage version of Michelle Magorian’s 1998 novel GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM. The Olivier Award-winning  2011 Chichester Festival Theatre production, adapted by David Wood. originally transferred to the Phoenix Theatre in November 2012 for a nine week run.

During the dangerous build-up to the Second World War, GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM follows young William Beech’s evacuation to the idyllic English countryside where he forms a remarkable and heart warming friendship with the curmudgeon Tom.

David’s such a wonderful character actor. I remember seeing him in INHERIT THE WIND, opposite Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic in 2009. Both actors signed a sketch for me. This drawing of David’s ‘Tom’ was signed on the last day at the Duke of York’s before the production moved to Manchester to start the 2016 UK Tour.

Drawing: Jeremy Secomb as Phantom and Javert in the same week

Jeremy Secomb

One of my ‘brain gone, leaving no forwarding address’ moments occurred a few weeks back when I was speaking to Ben Forster as he signed my ELF sketch on the final day of it’s run at the Dominion Theatre. Given my many moons involvement in theatre, both on, off and in between stages, I said something so profoundly stupid yet, by a twist of fate I almost redeemed myself. Bear with me.

I asked Ben what he was doing next and he said PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.
‘Which part?” I asked.
“The Phantom” he replied.
“Oh the big one.”
“Yes the big one.”
This is when my wires crossed and I asked,
“Is Jermey Secomb still playing Javert?”
“That’s LES MISERABLES,” he said in his usual very nice manner.
Half mask, brain at half-mast, half wit… find a hole to disappear down.

Anyway this week the moons all lined and some theatrical lunacy occurred that in a perverse way vindicated my stupidly, in my own mind at least. Ben, as the lead Phantom was injured, Scott Davis the standby and Kieran Brown understudy were unavailable, so all of a sudden PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, one of the West End’s major musicals was just…’of the Opera.’

Step in Jeremy, aka Javert, the emergency Phantom, who was familiar with the role, having played it many times around the globe and previously at Her Majesty’s. He literally leaped form the barricades at the Queen’s Theatre down the Haymarket to the secret lair, at the last minute to save the day. Slightly dramatic, but you get the picture.

I just had to do this sketch of Jeremy, who I had previously drawn as SWEENEY TODD and get it signed to commemorate the occasion. On Saturday I headed out on my vindication venture, but which role was he doing and at which royally-named theatre? I found out he was back on the barricades at Queen’s  and showed him this is a little tribute to his brilliance professionalism and Antipodean versatility He remembered my Sweeney sketch and was pleased to be able to graph it for me. My rendered redemption was complete… sort of. Jeremy Secomb was Javert, who played the Phantom. You get the picture.

Drawing: The Mother at the Tricycle Theatre

The Mother

The Freudian drama, THE MOTHER  is Florian Zeller’s companion piece to THE FATHER, the French dramatists’ brilliant tale of an old man with Alzheimer’s, which transferred from Kilburn’s Tricycle Theatre to the West End last year, and is due to return this month.
The follow-up Royal Theatre Bath production is on transfer to the Tricycle from its Ustinov Studio and looks likely to also make it to the West End after it completes it’s sell-out run at the North London venue in early March. Both plays have been translated into English by Christopher Hampton.

THE MOTHER is a haunting portrait of Anne, (Gina McKee) a mother losing her grip. Her sense of reality is under attack as her fear of slipping into the void once she’s no longer needed takes hold. The children have left the nest and her 25 year-old marriage to Peter, (Richard Clothier) is crumbling as he spends all his time at work and probably sleeping with his secretary. Her son Nicholas (William Postlethwaite) and his racy girlfriend Elodie (Frances McNamee) complete the quartet. Is his appearance part of a regular apparition or does he actually visit? “This time, he’s here,” Anne cries.

The ArtsDesk critic Marianka Swain described Gina’s portrayal of a mother’s primal grief as, “riveting…. as she ricochets between vicious barbs and defeated slumps, giddy elation and despairing vulnerability”.

I managed to catch-up with Richard and William before a Saturday matinee in my attempt to get this sketch signed by all four cast members. They very kindly said they would get it done for me and so they did.

Drawing: Torvill and Dean in Cinderella

Torvill and Dean

International ice icons Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean made their pantomime debut over the festive season in CINDERELLA at the Manchester Opera House, playing the fairy godparents, Queen Juniper and King Crispin, a slight deviation from the traditional tale. It was still the familiar Cinders story though, with an icy twist… well not real ice, but it looked like ice and Jayne and Christopher used roller skates rather than the ice versions, but their routines were just as immaculate and amazing.

It’s been over 30 years since the pair shot to International fame, becoming the highest scoring figure skaters of all time and providing one of the most memorable sporting and entertainment moments, skating to Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo to win the gold medal.

For the past decade they have been involved with  ITV’s DANCING ON ICE.
“This is our first pantomime,” said Jayne in an interview prior to the Christmas run, “…and something we have been wanting to do for some time.”

I didn’t get to Manchester to catch their performance live, but by all accounts Britain’s most loved sporting heroes impressed in their first ever panto. My drawing however got to them in person at the venue and immediately came back signed.

Drawing: Alistair McGowan in 4000 Days

Alistair McGowan

There’s not much Alistair McGowan hasn’t done when you skim through his bio. The English impressionist, comic, actor, singer, sports commentator, environmentalist, political activist and writer seems to have done everything in his 51 years on the planet… oh except sign one of my sketches. I gave him a chance to add that to his impressive CV during his run in 4000 DAYS at the Park Theatre.

Alistair’s life is a rich and varied tapestry from starring in the BBC’s top-rated THE BIG IMPRESSION for many years, winning a BAFTA in 2003, to stage work, including Shakespeare to an Olivier Award nomination for his role as Orin the Dentist in the Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, which transferred to the West End in 2007. He has hosted LIVE AT THE APOLLO and provided voices for the cult TV series SPITTING IMAGE. In 2011 he did commentary at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships for the BBC. In partnership with three other Greenpeace activists, including Emma Thompson. Alistair, a World Wildlife Fund-UK ambassador, bought some land in 2009, near Sipson in Middlesex, a village under threat from the proposed third runway for Heathrow Airport to prevent it’s expansion. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Continuing to extend his theatrical range, Alistair recently returned to the new, intimate Park Theatre in North London, where he last portrayed media personality and predatory sex offender Jimmy Savile to critical acclaim. This time he played Michael, a man who wakes up from a coma caused by a brain haemorrhage without any memory of the past 11 years in Peter Quilter’s new play 4000 DAYS. His character is at the centre of a struggle between his boyfriend Paul and Michael’s formidable, thrice-married mother Carol. Critic Dominic Cavendish described Alistair’s performance as exerting ” a strange, magnetic appeal.”

As the celebrated playwright and screenwriter Anita Loos once said “Memory is more indelible than ink.” Alistair remembered his name and inked my sketch with a less indelible  but old-fashioned black biro.

Drawing: The Homecoming at the Trafalgar Studios

The Homecoming

Fifty years after it premiered in London, director Jamie Lloyd staged the anniversary production of Harold Pinter’s THE HOMECOMING at the Trafalgar Studios over the last three months.  Considered by many to be the English playwright’s masterpiece, the play opened at the Aldwych Theatre in June 1965, before its Broadway premiere two years later at The Music Box.

The story revolves around a villainous family and an unexpected reunion. This domestic war zone is inhabited by six characters, five of whom are male and related. Prodigal son and Philosophy Professor Teddy (Gary Kemp) returns home from America with his pretty but disturbed wife Ruth (Gemma Chan) to his grotty North London home, where retired butcher and fading family patriarch, (or as critic Dominic Cavendish calls him ‘paterfamilias’) Max (Ron Cook) exists with his camp chauffeur brother Sam (Keith Allen) and two sons, the quick-witted and toxic pimp Lenny (John Simm) and the dim-witted demolition man and  boxer-in-training Joey (John Macmillan).

“Jamie Lloyd’s excellent revival offers a fresh approach to the play without in any way violating the rhythms of Pinter’s text,” wrote Michael Billington in The Guardian.

This montage sketch took a few attempts to get graphed. Between the inclement weather, cast illness and exit variations,  I eventually managed to get it all sorted after the final matinee on Saturday.