Drawing: Celia Imrie as Miss Babs in Acorn Antiques: The Musical!

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Celia Imrie won the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her role as Miss Babs in the 2005 production of ACORN ANTIQUES: THE MUSICAL at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Celia became known for her television collaborations with Victoria Wood and in 1985 she first played the infamous Miss Babs, the love lorn owner of Acorn Antiques, known for her frequent parodic flirtations with customers and her abuse of her housekeeper Mrs Overall (Julie Walters).

The sketches were a parody on the low budget British soap operas, in particular CROSSROADS, with its low production values, overacting, wobbly sets, appalling dialogue and improbable plots. The West End musical version, directed by Trevor Nunn, which also parodied successful musicals such as LES MISERABLES and CHICAGO  premiered in February 2005 and ran for a three-month sell-out season.

Celia  recently returned to the London stage to play Goneril in the just completed KING LEAR opposite Glenda Jackson at the Old Vic, where I caught up with her to sign this sketch of her as Miss Babs.

Drawing: Jane Horrocks as Regan in King Lear

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British actress Jane Horrocks played Regan, one of the declining monarch’s daughters, in the latest production of KING LEAR at the Old Vic. Small in statue, but huge on talent, the LITTLE VOICE star said “I relish my smallness. I really like my smallness,” in a Guardian interview earlier this year. She stands 5′ 4″ in ‘killer heels’ stalking about the stage ‘dangerously oversexed’ and ‘deliciously conniving’, complete with her signature shock blonde hair, seen recently in ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE, reprising her role as Bubble, the goofy sidekick of Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley.

As always the amicable Jane signed my sketch at the stage door on her way into a Saturday matinee a few weeks ago.

Drawing: Rhys Ifans as The Fool in King Lear

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Welsh actor Rhys Ifans returned to the London stage as the Fool in KING LEAR, which finished its run at the Old Vic last week. The production marked the theatrical comeback after 25 years of Glenda Jackson in the lead role. Although he had established himself with an extensive acting CV, Rhys became a global name as Hugh Grant’s lodger Spike in the 1999 film NOTTING HILL His scheming clown in LEAR received critical acclaim with the Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish writing, “Definite highlights include Rhys Ifans as an anarchic Fool, in a Superman cape, donning a scary clown mask and sleeping out the storm in shopping trolley.” Rhys has already gone in by the time I got to the stage door, but popped out for a quite ciggy and a siggy on my sketch.

Drawing: Glenda Jackson as King Lear

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“Glenda Jackson’s performance will be talked about for years,” wrote Dominic Cavendish in his Telegraph review of Deborah Warner’s star-studded modern-dress production of KING LEAR, which has just completed it’s short run at London’s Old Vic. Twenty-five years after her last stage performance as Christine in Eugene O’Neill’s MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA at the Glasgow Citizens, the 80 year-old, two-time Oscar winner made a ‘triumphant return to the stage’ with a “ferocious, unflinching performance that transcends gender and puts her amongst the best Lears,” proclaimed the Guardian’s Michael Billington.

In 1992 she became the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, winning four successive elections before retiring at the last election. It was suggested by more than one critic that her experience of political life and the injustices in the world enriched her understanding Lear. “Where does all her energy come from? Or that voice, which can blast out with a force to induce shockwaves? She is so pale, so spectre-thin with an androgynous crop of lankish hair… her neck pushes forward in vein-accentuating confrontation” continued the Guardian critic. Glenda was a little more subdued, thank goodness, at the stage door when she arrived for a Saturday matinee a couple of weeks ago and signed my drawing.

Drawing: Anne-Sophie Mutter

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One of the world’s leading violinists, Anne-Sophie Mutter returned to London last moth as part of the London Symphony Orchestra’s International Violin Festival at the Royal Festival Hall. Since her debut with the LSO in 1980, the German native Anne-Sophie has performed with the Orchestra on a number of occasions, this time coupling Beethoven’s commanding Violin Concerto with Dvorak’s symphony No 9 in E minor.

Known also for championing contemporary music, she has had several works especially composed for her. Anne-Sophie is one of the few violinists to own her Stradivarius, in fact she has two, the  Emilani of 1703 and the Lord Dunn-Raven Stradivarius of 1710. The latter she has played for the past 26 years and it is believed to have belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte.  A couple of unique facts about Anne-Sophie’s violin performances are her playing without wearing a shoulder rest and her need for traction with the instrument has led her to wearing the same style of John Galliano dress each time she plays.

I left this drawing at the Hall’s Artist’s Entrance  and received it back, signed and dedicated from Germany a couple of weeks later.

Drawing: Simon Rouse in The Dresser

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Simon Rouse plays the Fool… and plays the Fool very well in Sean Foley’s polished revival of Sir Ronald Harwood’s classic play THE DRESSER, about ‘Sir’, a veteran Shakespearean and his loyal dresser touring in the shadow of World War Two at the Duke of York’s. ‘an absolute delight’ and a ‘glorious cameo’ are two of the reviewers descriptions of his foolish performance.

Simon’s recent London appearances included JB Priestley’s WHEN WE WERE MARRIED at the Garrick over the Winter of 2010/11 and his role as Gerald in the UK tour of the stage production of Simon Beaufoy’s 1997 comedy-drama film THE FULL MONTY which transferred to the West Ends Noel Coward theatre in 2014. On the small screen Simon devotees will know him as Detective Chief Inspector Jack Meadows in the ITV long-running police drama THE BILL and he popped in CORONATION STREET as Rita’s ex-lover Rusty a few years back.

Anyway back to the Fool. Simon’s actual character is ageing actor Geoffrey Thornton who is part of a ‘war-surplus cast of cripples, old men and pansies’, and makes his debut in KING LEAR as the Fool, keen to impress ‘Sir’. He certainly impressed the critics with The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish writing. “Simon Rouse is memorably awful (no doubt meant in a good way) as the hastily recruited stand-in for The Fool.”

Drawing: Mark Rylance

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During the past eight years I have had the privilege of not only seeing British actor Mark Rylance on the London stage on many occasions, but meeting him, mainly at stage doors. I have also produced a similar number of drawings, which he has kindly graphed for me, often with a complimentary word or two, before getting on his bicycle and riding off to his South London home.

His many accolades, Tony, Olivier, BAFTA and now an Academy Award are acknowledgment to his brilliance. He is routinely described as the greatest actor of this generation and always receives the acclaim with grace and dignity… and usually his faithful black hat. I thought I don’t have a sketch of Mark with his hat! … so I did this one. Most of his memorable work has been on the stage rather than the screen. In fact he turned down a role in Steven Spielberg’s EMPIRE OF THE SUN to tread the boards at the National Theatre.

In a recent interview for the British GQ magazine, writer Ed Caesar described Mark in his intro as “a man powered by inner conflict and never more at peace than when the curtain rises.” But when he does do screen work, he really hits the mother lode. Mark eventually said ‘yes’ to Mr Spielberg, winning this year’s Oscar for his portrayal as soviet intelligence officer Rudolf Abel in BRIDGE OF SPIES and a BAFTA for his star turn as Thomas Cromwell in the BBC’s WOLF HALL.

Mark has returned to his beloved stage this winter, starring in his own play NICE FISH which he wrote with Louis Jenkins, directed by his wife Claire van Kampen. After a short run at the St Anne’s Warehouse in New York earlier this year, the production has transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End, where I meet him again. No hat, or bicycle this time, but he did sign my ‘hat’ drawing with  his inimitable style.

Drawing: Raymond Briggs

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Raymond Briggs is one of Britain’s most respected and beloved artists. The 82 year-old illustrator, cartoonist and graphic novelist has been called the ‘King of Christmas’, due to his classic book THE SNOWMAN, whose animated version is televised every Christmas and the equally festive FATHER CHRISTMAS  and FUNGUS THE BOGEYMAN. However, in a recent Guardian interview Raymond rejects the title, saying he actually hates this time of year. “It’s full of anxiety,” he said. “In the book version of THE SNOWMAN, there’s no Christmas, there’s nothing Christmassy about FUNGUS and FATHER CHRISTMAS is anti-Christmas.” Like one of his characters he likes being a bit of a curmudgeon with a twinkle in his eye. “Mince pies appearing in Waitrose on the first of November… it’s ridiculous!”

I briefly met Raymond at the world premiere of the animated version of his graphic novel ETHEL & ERNEST at the Curzon cinema in Mayfair, during the BFI London Film Festival in October. I had drawn this sketch of him and hoped to get it signed, but he had his hands full of bags and was being ushered quickly into the cinema for media obligations, so I thought it best to simply say hello then retreat. I mailed it to him instead and it came back signed and dedicated. I never really know how other artists will react to a request to sign artwork that is not theirs. Raymond added a note ‘not by me’ to ensure the correct providence.

Drawing: Beth Hart

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American singer songwriter Beth Hart is currently on a European tour to promote the release of her latest album ‘Better Than Home’. Known for her mix of blues, rock, soul and jazz fusion, Beth’s breakthrough year came in 1999 with her second album ‘Screamin’ For My Supper’ and the hit single ‘LA Song (Out of Town).

A collaboration with Joe Bonamassa on Seesaw’ was Grammy nominated in 2014 and she featured as the lead in LOVE, JANIS the off-Broadway production of the musical based on Joplin’s letters home to her mother.

Beth signed my drawing at the Colton Hall in Bristol while on the UK leg of her tour.

Drawing: Ed Harris in Buried Child

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Sixty-six year old veteran actor Ed Harris has made his London stage debut in Sam Shephard’s 1978 Pulitzer Prize winning weird-as-hell family drama BURIED CHILD at the Trafalgar Studios after its successful New York run earlier this year. Directed by Scott Elliot, this ‘impressively unsettling revival’ opened last night for a 14 week engagement.
While he known for his large body of screen work, resulting in multiple Oscar nominations and winning a Golden Globe and SAG awards, Ed began his acting career on the stage. In 1986 he received a Best Actor Tony nomination for his performance in George Furth’s PRECIOUS SONS.

Ed plays Dodge, a septuagenarian Illinois patriarch wedded to his sofa. In his Guardian review Michael Billington called the production “brutally compelling” and “Harris’s impressive as a whiskey-soaked old wreck in Shepard’s gothic story of loveless inertia and poisonous guilt in a dysfunctional family.” He is joined on stage by his wife Amy Madigan. Ed signed my sketch at the stage door during previews a couple of weeks ago.