It’s the Summer Holiday season and the magic spectacular IMPOSSIBLE has returned to it’s West End home at the Noel Coward Theatre. This reboot finally welcomes two female performers – ‘cutting edge conjuror’ Sabine van Diemen and ‘grand illusionist’ Josephine Lee, after being rightly criticised last year for its, as Fiona Mountford calls it in the Evening Standard, “bombastic all-male line-up … It’s pleasing to report that the new team boasts two women headline performers alongside the usual glamorous female assistants,” or as the Telegraph’s Claire Allfree states, “…the testosterone overloaded show that unbalanced it last year.” She among other critics made the point that in the previous production the purpose of anyone on stage with an extra X chromosome was either to be cut in two, made to disappear or have arrows fired at her head from a crossbow.
To be fair, Britain’s leading female magician Katherine Mills was included in last year’s line-up, but had to pull out for ‘unforeseen personal reasons’. But magic is predominately a male domain with only 100 of the UK’s 1,500 Magic Circle members are women. That imbalance has been addressed with Sabine and Josephine, both ex-assistants of the famed Vegas act Hans Klok.
Sabine gets her own back on the magic patriarchy by bisecting a man in a box and Josephine strikes one for the sisterhood with two escapologist acts-one involving a padlocked water tank. The other five IMPOSSIBLE acts include this years’s Britain’s Got Talent winner the Household Cavalry’s Lance Corporal Richard Jones, hip-hop street magician Magic Bones who backflips while doing card tricks, escapologist and self-proclaimed ‘daredevil’ Jonathan Goodwin who sets his own crotch on fire, the charismatic mind-reader Chris Cox and the ‘boundary -breaking’ Ben Hart , both from BBC’s ‘Killer Magic’.
Sabine and Josephine appeared at the stage door after last Saturday’s matinee performance and signed their respective portrait sketches for me. Magic!
One of the greatest tennis players of all time, American Chris Evert dominated the women’s game in the 1970’s and early 80’s. She was the first World Number 1 when the official WTA computer ranking system was instituted in 1975 and held that position year-end until 1981, winning 137 singles and 32 doubles titles in a professional career that spanned 17 years until her retirement in 1989. Her total of 260 weeks is third behind Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova. She was successful on all surfaces, especially clay, winning the French Open on seven occasions. Her 18 Grand Slam singles titles also include two Australian, three Wimbledon and six US Open victories. Chris’ winning percentage of 89.96 is the highest in the history of the Open era, men’s and women’s and on clay her 94.55% is a WTA record. She also won four World Tour Finals.
I meet Chris at this year’s Wimbledon Championships, where she has been an analyst for ESPN since 2011 and signed my sketch.
One of Britain’s best-loved pop performers, Pixie Lott has made her stage debut as Holly Golightly, the dizzy, enigmatic New York good-time girl in the theatrical adaption of Truman Capote’s classic novella BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S. After opening at The Curve Leicester Theatre in March and a brief tour, the production has settled into the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the West End. Pixie will play Holly, the role immortalised by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film version, for a limited 12 week run, ending in September.
The production is the latest stage version adapted by American playwright Richard Greenberg from Capote’s original rather than the film script. It was first performed on Broadway in 2013 with GAME OF THRONES star Emilia Clarke as Holly.
Pixie knows a thing or three about singing. Her Platinum-record selling pop career started with a bang. Her debut single ‘Mama Do’ went to Number 1 in June 2009 and things have continued on an upward trajectory since. She insists she’s not ditching singing, just developing a wider audience appeal with her acting.
In fact she gets to perform three songs in the play, including the classic Academy Award winning number ‘Moon River”. Pixie has been making a strong sartorial display arriving and leaving the theatre each day, keeping the tabloids busy, so the paps were positioned along with a handful of us graphers in equal numbers, outside the stage door on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
The amiable Pixie arrived, (now for a rare moment of fashion commentary) in a stylish pastel pink tea dress, snakeskin ankle boots with a small silver handbag and matching winged sunglasses, adding a blue sharpie to the accessories and everyone got what they wanted.
Eighteen months ago very few theatre-goers in London had heard of Florian Zeller. Now the Parisian playwright is “the go-to man if you are looking for 90 minutes of elegant perceptive drama that plays games with the slippery nature of theatrical reality,” according to WhatsOnStage critic Sarah Crompton.
His latest offering, THE TRUTH completes a dazzling hat-trick that includes THE FATHER and its companion piece THE MOTHER, both of which have graced the London stage to critical acclaim recently. THE TRUTH, directed by Lindsay Posner, opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory earlier this year and has transferred to the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre. In her five-star review for the Guardian, Kate Kellaway described it as “a devious must-see.”
Like his previous English successes, LA VERITE, which was written in 2011, has been translated by Christopher Hampton. It’s a confounding and unsettling tale of infidelity and the lying game as Michel (Alexander Hanson) attempts to keep his wife (Tanya Franks), his mistress (Frances O’Connor) and his best friend (Robert Portal) in the dark about his intentions. Sarah Crompton wrote, “It’s a plot as slim as a Parisian woman, and just as sophisticated, with a faint whiff of 1950’s wreathing its etiolated gestures.”
Both Frances and Alexander signed my drawing at the stage door after last Saturday’s matinee.
The England Cricket Captain and opening batsman, Alastair Cook has made a habit of scoring runs and in particular centuries. His latest came last Friday, on the opening day of the second test against Pakistan which is still in progress at Old Trafford. His 105 was his 29th Test century, equalling the great Sir Don Bradman. In May 2015 the prolific left-hander became England’s leading run-scorer in Test matches, surpassing Graham Gooch in the second test against New Zealand at Headingly and exactly a year to the day later he became the youngest batsman to score 10,000 test runs against Sri Lanka in the second test at Chester-le-street.
This penchant for passing the magic 100 milestone began right from the start. At the age of 21, while touring the West Indies with the ECB Academy side in 2006, he was called-up to join England’s tour of India side as a late replacement, scoring 104 on debut. This was to become a familiar pattern, also scoring centuries in his first Test matches against Pakistan, the West Indies and Bangaldesh.
Alastair became England’s ‘Captain Cook’ when fellow opener Andrew Strauss retired in 2012. In 130 Tests he has amassed 10,265 runs at an average of 46.87 and 3,204 runs in his 92 ODI’s. His Test total includes three double centuries, with a top score of 294 against India.
When not scoring runs on the cricket field, Alastair runs a farm near Leighton Buzzard and plays the saxophone. I have meet him on a few occasions, mainly at Lords and he has always been great with the fans, taking time to sign graphs and pose for photos. I didn’t get a chance to catch-up at the first test against Pakistan at Lords last week, so sent my drawing to Old Trafford and it came back signed within two days.
THE TRIAL OF JANE FONDA is a one-act play inspired by a meeting between the Hollywood ‘wild-child’ of Henry Fonda and angry American war vets disgusted by her visit to Hanoi and photographed with North Vietnamese soldiers sixteen years earlier.
Written and directed by seven-time Emmy Award-winner Terry Jastrow, the production debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2014, featuring his wife, the Oscar-nominated actress Anne Archer as ‘Hanoi Jane’. The meeting took place after irate Vietnam veterans, outraged by her anti-war protests, threatened to halt shooting of the her film STANLEY AND IRIS in Waterbury, Connecticut.
She agreed to meet 26 of them (in the play there’s a lot less) in the local St Michael’s Episcopal Church on 18 June 1988 to listen to them and explain her side of the argument and her outrage at a brutal foreign policy based on a flawed ‘domino effect’ theory about the spread of Communism.
Last seen in the London in her West End debut as Mrs Robinson in THE GRADUATE at the Gielgud in 2001, Anne Archer reprises her role as Jane Fonda, which is currently running at the Park Theatre directed by Joe Harmston until mid August. I left this portrait of Anne at the venue which she signed and dedicated for me.
‘There’s a new Doll in town’ proclaims all the billboards around London, announcing Australian Hollywood star Rebel Wilson’s West End debut in the 1950’S Broadway musical GUYS AND DOLLS at the Phoenix Theatre. The 36 year old bubbly blonde, ‘Sydney-born sensation’ (as the Telegraph’s critic Dominic Cavendish called her) plays the show’s interminably engaged New York night-club singer Miss Adelaide for an eight-week engagement.
She received a standing ovation on her opening night, tweeting to her 3.3 million followers afterwards, thanking the audience and saying how honoured she was and saying “sooo… one down, 63 performances to go.”
On Saturday night I positioned myself at the stage door barriers among the hoards where she signed my sketch.
Current World Formula One motor racing champion Lewis Hamilton won his home Grand Prix at Silverstone last weekend to move within one point of his teammate and nearest rival Nico Rosberg on the F1 Driver Standings. It was Lewis’ fourth victory this year and moves him a step closer to retaining the World title. He is now third on the all time list of Grand Prix wins with 47.
Always a good ‘grapher in person, Lewis had previously signed a rapid scribble I did of his car at last year’s British Fashion Awards. In motor racing terms I would call it a ‘practice session’ for this slightly more detailed sketch, including the man himself, which I decided to send to him via his Mercedes AMG Petronas team at Silverstone, not expecting much joy. To my surprise and delight, it came back signed and dedicated. Chequered flag for me!
I have met French tennis star Marion Bartoli twice. The first time was many years ago at the Australian Open when her star was rising, walking to her match on an outer court without a lot of security and attention. I politely asked her for an autograph and she very politely said she would be happy to… but after the match. Fair enough. The second time was last week at Wimbledon where she is now part of the commentary team.
She was on her way to Centre Court to cover the women’s semi finals. It’s an arena she is familiar with. After being runner-up in 2007 Marion went on beat Sabine Lisicki in the 2011 final to win the Ladies Singles title and become only the sixth player to win the Championships without dropping a single set. A month later she retired citing the pain from all the injuries she had sustained throughout her career. Marion was known for her unorthodox and intense playing style, dominated by a two-handed forehand and backhand developed by her father and longtime coach Walter.
Marion was to have played in the Women’s Invitational Doubles at this year’s Championships, but had to withdraw on medical advice. It was revealed that she had contacted a serious virus that resulted in a dramatic weight loss. Immediately after the Tournament she underwent a blood transfusion and tweeted that she was ‘now on the up’. Great news for her large fan base. Anyway on our second meeting she was happy to sign this sketch I drew of her.
“A high-powered Flight of the Concords dipped in acid and drenched in smut,” is how the Crikey (AU) magazine described EASTEND CABARET performers and professional perverts, Jennifer Byrne and Victoria Falconer-Pritchard.
The globe-trotting, gin-loving, man east-riding, accordion-eluding, multi-award winning could musical comedy duo are known by their stage names, Bernadette Byrne, a European chanteuse of unknown origin and Victor Victoria, a faux-bilateral hermaphrodite, one man/woman band.
On a recent tour Downunder, Theatrereview NZ likened them to a “mutant child of a Victorian circus-locked away in the Pet Shop Boys basement and forced to watch nothing but Eurovision.”
Their utterly raucous, unashamedly risqué, dark,hilarious and dangerously inappropriate show had it’s origins in the iconic East End pub, The George Tavern in 2009, appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe two years later. TimeOut said “They can work an audience like nobody’s business.” Last year they won Best Variety Act at the London Cabaret Awards.
I left this sketch of Bernie and Victy from their 2015 Soho Theatre production PERVERTS at the London Hippodrome where they were performing last month and it came back, signed with their character names and a little note.