A selection of 2016 Chicanery.
I was very happy to receive this in the post yesterday. One of my all-time favourite film directors, Czech-born, New York-based Milos Forman signed and returned this drawing. Although I had corresponded with Milos a few times over the years, I had never actually sketched him, until late this year when the omission suddenly dawned on me. I quickly engaged the 4B and posted the result to the 84 year-old, forthwith. Regarded as one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of his generation and the master of ironic comedy and sumptuous period dramas, he was fascinated with odd, yet sympathetic characters, exploring their struggles as individuals against systems and standards that oppress them.
Growing up in the small, Central Bohemian town of Caslav, near Prague, it was Milos’ parents who nurtured his love of cinema at a young age. Sadly orphaned when both his mother and father died in Nazi concentration camps during the second World War, he went on to become the most important director of the Czechoslovak New Wave, before moving to America in 1968. His multiple accolades include two Best Director Academy Awards, the first for the potent adaption of Ken Kesey’s ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST (1975) and his second for Peter Shaffer’s AMADEUS (1984), both Best Picture winners, with the former considered one of the best films ever made. Incidentally two of my top ten films as well.
In its Milos retrospective, the AFI summarised his body of work, “Based on intelligent scripts, Forman’s work is characterised by a sharp anti-authoritarian spirit and a lucid, heart felt humanism.”
This is the second sketch I drew of in-demand London actress with the memorable name, Ophelia Lovibond in her West End debut in the ‘sexually-charged masterpiece’ THE LIBERTINE. The Theatre Royal Bath production transferred to the Theatre Royal Haymarket for a limited season concluding earlier this month. Ophelia played 17th Century actress Elizabeth Barry opposite Dominic Cooper’s Earl of Rochester, Restoration England’s most notorious rake and pornographic poet.
Ophelia had signed my previous drawing early in the London run and I had this other one still in my folder when passing the theatre’s stage door after the final performance, where the cast were gathered with fans. I thought, why not and she was very complimentary about the second sketch and more than happy to sign it.
British songstress Samantha Barks made her stage debut as Sally Bowles in the 2008-09 UK Tour of CABARET, followed by her West End introduction as Eponine in LES MISERABLES at the Queen’s Theatre in 2010. Regarded as one of the finest to perform the tragic street waif, Sam was chosen by Director Tom Hooper to reprise the part in the 2012 film adaption.
Sam returned to the West End in the dual roles of Mallory and Avril for Josie Rourke’s revival of the Tony and Olivier Award-winning musical comedy CITY OF ANGELS at the Donmar Warehouse in the winter of 2014. Her latest London stage appearance was at the St James’ Theatre in THE LAST FIVE YEARS with Jonathan Bailey, which finished before Christmas, where she signed this drawing for me after the final performance.
“Painfully funny and funnily painful comedy,” said The Times about DEAD FUNNY, Terry Johnson’s homage to the golden age of British TV comedy. I was lucky enough to see the original production when it transferred from Hampstead to the Vaudeville Theatre in London’s West End in 1994, featuring Zoe Wanamaker and David Haig.
It returned to the same theatre this Autumn, again directed by the writer for a limited run until next February. Lead by Katherine Parkinson as Eleanor, the frustrated wife in a flatlining marriage who is desperate for a baby with her pompous, intimancy-phobic husband Richard, played by Rufus Jones. He gets his jollies chairing the Dead Funny Society, a group of nerdy, emotionally deficient comedy aficionados – Ralf Little (Nick), Steve Pemberton (Brian) and Emily Berrington (Lisa), who meet up in April 1992 when two of Britain’s cherished funnymen Benny Hill and Frankie Howard copped it on consecutive days to not only mourn, but celebrate their contribution to hilarity and laughter.
In the end it’s Eleanor who provides the final irony in the play, wrote Guardian critic Michael Billington, “even though she despises the Dead Funny Society, she is the only one with a sense of humour.
“Johnson’s classic brings laughs with a lump in the throat. Comedy may have changed radically since Johnson wrote the play, but it still holds a disturbing mirror up to all those of us who worship at the shrine of dead comics,” he concluded.
I managed get my montage signed by all five ‘Live Funny’ actors amongst the festive rush at the Vaudeville stage door over the past week.
May the Spirit of Christmas bring you peace and happiness.
Following their hit run on Broadway, Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart brought the Pinter masterpiece NO MAN’S LAND to the West End for a sell-out season at Wyndham’s Theatre, which concluded on Saturday last. They were joined by Owen Teale and Damien Molony in this much-anticipated revival of Harold Pinter’s 1975 cryptic and hilariously tragicomedy directed by Sean Mathias.
A pub postman, Spooner (Sir Ian) is invited back to the luxurious Hampstead pad of Hirst, (Sir Patrick) a famous writer, where they proceed to get trollied on epic amounts of whiskey and vodka, and spend the evening in drunken conversation as the guest ingratiates himself on his near comatose host only interrupted by the intimidating manservants Briggs (Owen) and Foster (Damien). The play is evoked by the classic English farce, laden with ‘peachy’ one-liners such as Briggs, “the best time to drink champagne is before lunch, you cunt.”
In a nutshell, it looks at the absurdity and chaos of late life and the disintegration of memory. TimeOut said of the Sirs performance,”Two actors who still live up to their legend, nailing one of the great works of a playwrights who still lives up to his.”
I managed to get Sir Ian, Owen and Damien to graph this montage sketch in person at the stage door, but Sir Patrick was a little more elusive. I tried on a few occasions, but he had guests or had to rush off, so missed him. However, caught in no man’s land in the final week, I passed it onto the helpful Joshua at Wyndham’s, who did get the drawing to Sir Patrick and it was returned signed, completing the set.
British actress Charlotte Hope is ‘having a bit of a moment’ as they say in the business. The ‘moment’ has lasted four years and continues. The Oxford graduate made her film debut as part of the factory ensemble in LES MISERABLES in 2012 and then went on to play Myranda in the mega-hit TV series GAME OF THRONES and Stephen Hawking’s younger sister Philippa in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING amongst her impressive recent resume. She is currently in the West End playing Shelly in Sam Shepard’s BURIED CHILD alongside Ed Harris, which I sketched and she signed last week at the Trafalgar Studios stage door.
Young Canadian comedian and writer Mae Martin, described as a ‘brilliant mix of clever, venerable and goofy,’ was even younger when she began performing comedy, at the age of 13. Now eleven years later she has established herself as one of the bright lights on the British circuit. Mae trained for four years at the Toronto outpost of the internationally acclaimed comedy institution and world’s premier school of improv, The Second City, which boasts alumni including Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy and Bill Murray. London-based since 2010, Mae successfully debuted at the Edinburgh Festival the following year and then her sell-out MAE DAY run in 2012.
I was lucky enough to catch he delightful comic last Thursday before her show at the Soho Theatre where she signed my drawing.
‘The Fresh Prince’ was in London town late last week for the European Premiere of his latest film COLLATERAL BEAUTY. I had sketched this portrait some time ago, but never managed to get Will to sign it. His popularity means it can be a bit of a battle to get his graph. Forbes claims he is the world’s most bankable star, with 17 out of his last 21 films grossing over $100 million and Newsweek once called him ‘the most powerful actor in Hollywood’. But I had another chance to get him to sign my drawing, not helped by the pens being locked down at 4pm, and my arrival at ten past. However the Christmas spirit or spirits prevailed and I managed to secure a spot, albeit it in a difficult position.
Will arrived first, did a few pics then proceeded to sign the line. Three rows back wasn’t ideal and that was confirmed as I just couldn’t quite get the sketch close enough to be seen amongst the gazillion other items and selfie requests. He moved on… but that Christmas spirit was still trending and a very kind gentleman next to me, not in red clothing nor a white beard, but with the wing span of a pterodactyl, grabbed my rendering and positioned in right in front of Will and he happily signed it.