I was extra pleased and super surprised to get this back in the mail today. I have lingered outside venues in rain and hail for hours to catch one of the world’s violin greats, Nigel Kennedy, to sign my sketch. This creative ‘defacing’ of my profile drawing of him is a welcome and long overdue addition to my collection of famous fiddlers that include Sir Yehudi Menuhin and Stephane Grappelli, who incidently asked the 16 year old Nigel to appear with him at New York’s Carnege Hall. Nigel’s unique appearance, virtuosity and relaxed attitude has made him a popular figure with audiences worldwide.
Nigel has just finished his ‘The New Four Seasons’ UK tour revisiting his version of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ from the original 1989 recording that sold over 3 million copies and is considered one of the best classical albums of all time.
Music critic Rian Evan’s wrote in his Guardian review of the current gig, “The violinist is still a mass of contradictions, but his skill is still in tact and the sound compelling”
His final tour venue was G Live in Guildford. I thought that sounded like a place that would pass on my drawing to Nigel to sign and return. I was right.
I’m not sure when I drew this caricature of Australian tennis legend John Newcombe. I think it was sometime in the 1990s when he was an Australian Open commentator at Melbourne Park. Somehow I managed to get it to him. I don’t do many caricatures for signing these days. It was my modus operandi back then and surprisingly got most of them signed. I didn’t resort to vicious renderings, preferring a softer approach with a comical likeness in order to get the work ‘graphed. I liked to use a fine line 0.05 black felt pen and board cross-hatch style with big heads, small bodies and extended necks… where appropriate.
For the record John won seven Grand Slam singles titles including three Wimbledons and secured an all-time record 17 doubles victories. He was World Number 1 in both singles and doubles. Rod Laver is the only other player to have won the US Open and Wimbledon as an amateur and a professional.
As a bit of trivia, given that the US Presidential elections are upon us, it was revealed during the 2000 campaign that John was George W Bush’s drinking companion in September 1976 when the future President was charged with driving under the influence.
On Friday, Swedish soprano Emmi Christensson played Christine Daae for the final time in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. Emmi has been the alternate Christine since July 2014 but she now returns to her homeland to play the lead in Stockholm starting in September. But I managed to get her to sign my sketch before she headed back to Scandinavia.
When Marisa Berenson signed my portrait sketch a couple of weeks ago I promised to return with a drawing of her as Lady Capulet-her role in the Kenneth Branagh Company’s ROMEO AND JULIET which is currently running at the Garrick Theatre in London.
Gracing the cover of every magazine during the seventies Marisa was one of the world’s most in-demand and highest paid models. Now, in her sixties she makes her West End debut as Juliet’s mother,not a model parent. The detached and superficial Lady Capulet’s relationship with her daughter is not a close one and Marisa’s portrayal was described by Quentin Letts as “nicely stiff appearance” in the Daily Mail.
I caught up with the very engaging Marisa at the Garrick stage door on Friday afternoon as she arrived for the evening performance and she was happy to sign this sketch for me as well.
“Act my age – not a chance,” said Sir Derek Jacobi, who at 77 wasn’t expecting to play Romeo’s swashbuckling pal Mercutio in Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET. Kenneth Branagh had other ideas. Thirty years after he first directed the Bard’s tragic romance, Sir Kenneth wanted to revisit a ‘more mature Mercutio’ so he and co-director Rob Ashford cast the distinguished thesp as more of a ‘fatherly figure’ in the latest revival as part of Plays At The Garrick season. Sir Derek wasn’t fazed about the fighting scenes. “I’ve smashed a few buckles in my time,” he said. If he can survive sword fighting Peter O’Toole in HAMLET he can survive anything he added.
For a large proportion of his 77 years, Sir Derek has been associated with Shakespeare. A quick kaleidoscope of his Bard times includes appearing as Chorus in Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 film HENRY V, winning the Tony in 1984 for MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and playing the main antagonist Malvolio in TWELFTH NIGHT at Wyndham’s Theatre seven years ago, winning his second Olivier Award in the process. He also collected an Emmy Award in 2001 for his guest appearance in the TV sitcom FRASIER, mocking his Shakespearian background as the worst actor in the world, the hammy, loud and untalented Jackson Hedley.
Sir Derek signed this sketch of him as Malvolio and Mercutio this week at the Garrick stage door.
Britain’s longest reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II is set to celebrate her official 90th birthday today. Her actual birthday was on 21 April. It’s a tradition linked to the unreliable British weather, because the Royal Family want to hold the grand royal birthday parade in the summer.
She may be the most influential woman in the world, but she’s dropped off the rich list again, though I’m sure no expense has been spared for the birthday celebrations
As Euro2016 kicks off, violence broke out in Marseille as England fans chant “ISIS, where are you?”
Trump and Clinton are set to contest the US Presidential election.
Scott Davies currently plays the standby Phantom and Nadim Naaman his rival, Viscount Raoul de Chagny in Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End. They form two sides of the love triangle to win the heart of breakout new soprano Christine Daae.
Scott, who alternates the title role with Principal Phantom Ben Forster, is no stranger to the iconic part and Her Majesty’s having played the lead Phantom from December 1999 to July 2000. He returned as the standby in 2009 when David Shannon was the lead followed by John Owen-Jones. Scott also played the Phantom in the UK tour.
PHANTOM is Nadim’s favourite musical. Like Scott, he is no stranger to the production,
spending two years (2010-2012) with the show including first cover for Raoul. He made his West End debut as Rolf in THE SOUND OF MUSIC after graduating from the Royal Academy of Music in 2007, returning to PHANTOM and the role of Raoul in July 2015.
An accomplished singer-songwriter Nadim’s second album ‘Sides’ is being released this month, containing 9 originals and 9 covers with some stellar West End guests including Eva Noblezada, Celinde Schoenmaker and Jeremy Secomb.
Both Scott and Nadim signed this at Her Majesty’s stage door.
British director Ken Loach joined an elite club this month winning the Palm d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival with his powerful welfare state polemic film I, DANIEL BLAKE. Only eight other directors have twice won the prestigious top honour in its 69 year old history, including Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Haneke, Luc and Pierre Durdenne.
His previous win was with the war drama THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY in 2006.
I, DANIEL BLAKE follows the growing humiliation of a 59 year old Geordie joiner who struggles with the British benefits system after an attack leaves him unable to work.
The 79 year-old filmmaker said he had finished with directing, but became so infuriated by the plight of the poor under the current Conservative government that he came out of retirement to make this film addressing the human cost of their policies.
“Punishing the poor is no accident, it’s part of David Cameron’s project”, he said.
Ken turned down an OBE in 1997, stating, “It’s not a club you want to join when you look at the villains who’ve got it.”
I have met Ken a few times at the British Film Institute and the week after his Cannes win he was speaking at the premiere of VERSUS, a documentary about history and life. I drew this sketch on the day and hoped to get him to sign it in person at the Curzon Cinema in Soho, but couldn’t make it in the end, so sent it to his production company instead.
In another life when I trod the boards, I once played Peter in the Bard’s classic romantic tragedy ROMEO AND JULIET. Not a major character, but the one charged with adding comic relief to the sad tale – the story of my life.
Peter was the loyal servant of Juliet’s Nurse, a major character who acts as a go-between for Romeo and Juliet and is the only person besides Friar Laurence to know of the star-crossed lovers’ wedding. I say this as a feeble intro and my loose connection to the Nurse, a major role in Shakespeare’s archetypal love story.
Meera Syal plays the Nurse in the Kenneth Branngh Company’s latest revival at the Garrick Theatre in London. The comedian, writer, playwright, singer, journalist, producer and actress is probably best known for her portrayal as one of Britain’s most loveable Indian personalities, Sanjeev’s grandmother Ummi in THE KUMARS AT NUMBER 42.
Meera signed this sketch for me as she arrived for Saturday’s matinee.
Broadway Royalty Bernadette Peters returned to the London concert stage for the first time in 18 years at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday..
Critic Mark Shenton wrote, “The New York legend lives up to her exalted status,” in his four-star review in The Stage.
Considered one of the most critically acclaimed Broadway performers, Bernadette debuted on the New York stage at the age of ten. She is regarded as the foremost interpreter of the works of Stephen Sondheim, a collaborations which began 32 years ago when she played Dot in the original production of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE.
Nominated for seven Tony awards, winning two and nine Drama Desk Awards, winning three, Bernadette has also appeared in 33 films and TV movies. My first memory of her was the 1976 role as the voluptuous nightclub sensation Vilma Kaplan in Mel Brook’s SILENT MOVIE for which she was nominated for her first of three Golden Globe nominations, winning for PENNIES FROM HEAVEN in 1981. She has also garnered three Emmy Award noms.
I drew this montage sketch of Bernadette which she signed for me at the Festival Hall.