Drawing: Charlie Stemp in Half A Sixpence

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The West End sensation at the moment is the effervescent 23 year-old Londoner Charlie Stemp and his performance as Arthur Kipps in Julian Fellowes’ revised version of HALF A SIXPENCE, which transferred from the sell-out season at the Chichester Festival Theatre to the Noel Coward Theatre last November. It’s a role originally created as a star vehicle for Tommy Steele and the 1963 West End Premiere. Despite Charlie’s dizzying rise to the top of the theatre world, he is kept grounded by his family. His Dad sent him a review with his name misspelt, “this Charlie Stump is doing well.”

But he new how to sign his name on my sketch for me last Saturday when I caught up with him arriving for the matinee.

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Drawing: Ben Turner and Andrei Costin in The Kite Runner

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Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini’s debut 2003 novel THE KITE RUNNER became an International best-seller and was adapted into a 2007 film. Matthew Spangler’s stage version is currently running in the West End at Wyndham’s Theatre until March.

It’s a haunting tale of the unlikely friendship between Amir, a wealthy boy from Kabul and his closest friend and kite-running partner Hassan, the son of his father’s servant. Andrei Costin is Hassan and former CASUALTY star Ben Turner plays Amir as an adult who speaks directly to the audience, retrospectively looking back at the events that led to him becoming a refugee in California and the terrible incident that would shatter their lives forever. Both signed this drawing for me after last Saturday’s matinee.

Drawing: Amy Griffiths as Florabel Leigh

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Hart and Kaufman’s great old-fashioned Broadway comedy hit ONCE IN A LIFETIME was revived at London’s Young Vic theatre over the festive season. Satirising the entertainment world at the arrival of ‘talking pictures’, the story follows three enterprising New Yorkers as they head west to cash in after the first sound film became a smash hit, setting up an elocution studio in Tinseltown.

Amy Griffiths plays Florabel Leigh, a somewhat famous silent film star who finds that the switch to sound puts her at a disadvantage because of her accent, so she needs to enrol in elocution lessons to work in the talkies. Misadventures abound. Amy signed my Florabel sketch after the final matinee in January.

Drawing: Gemma Arterton at the Apollo

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British actress Gemma Arterton has been the subject for a number of my theatrical renderings and here’s another one. It must have something to do with the fact she has ‘art’ in her name. I drew two sketches of her as NELL GWYNN, one a single portrait and this montage of her as the the celebrated 17th century actress and mistress to Charles II, when she appeared in the Globe’s transfer of Jessica Swale’s play at the Apollo theatre last year.

She signed the portrait there and I was passing the Donmar Warehouse on Saturday and she happened to be outside the front doors signing after the final matinee performance of George Bernard Shaw’s SAINT JOAN after a two-month run. Following her triumph at the Apollo, Gemma’s portrayal of the feminist icon and spiritual warrior was equally acclaimed in the Josie Rourke-directed contemporary production. I also happened to still have this sketch in my folder, which she was happy to also sign.

Drawing: Barnaby Kay in Buried Child

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My final character sketch of the cast of Sam Shepard’s dark psychodrama BURIED CHILD is Barnaby Kay who plays Tilden, a ‘distracted man-child’ who has returned to his paternal home and a dysfunctional family to potter around outside digging up vegetables….which his parents performed by Ed Harris and Amy Madigan say don’t exist! The limited run at London’s Trafalgar Studios began last November and has been extended until next month. Barnaby’s career involves an extensive mix of TV, film and stage appearances. He spent the early years as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and appeared in the 1998 Best Picture Oscar-winner SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. He signed this sketch for me at the stage door last December.

Drawing: Ashleigh Grey, Lizzy Connolly and Lauren Samuels in Vanities

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A revised version of  VANITIES, A NEW MUSICAL, based on Jack Heifner’s book and the 1976 play, debuted at the Trafalgar Studies in London for a limited, one-month run last September.

The original production premiered Off-Broadway in 2009. The West End show starred Ashleigh Grey, Lizzy Connolly and Lauren Samuels as Kathy, Joanne and Mary, three best friends growing up in Dallas,Texas at a time when image and style was more important than brains and ambition.

As the promotional slogan stated, “They’re Pretty, They’re Popular, They’re Clueless.” The London production featured new material not heard in New York.

I left this drawing of Ashleigh, Lizzy and Lauren at the Studios on the final day and when it didn’t come back, I thought I must have missed them. But, yesterday it arrived in the mail.

Drawing: Jeremy Irvine in Buried Child

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Six years ago British actor Jeremy Irvine was playing a tree in David Greig’s RSC production of DUNSINANE at Hampstead theatre, before he was plucked from ‘the forest of obscurity’ to play the lead role in Steven Spielberg’s big-screen adaption of the epic WAR HORSE.

Jeremy was about to give up acting, finding work was difficult and a career change was on the cards. He had never been in a film before, but learnt to ride, gained 14lb of muscle and learnt the Devonshire accent for two months of auditions. The legendary director wanted a newcomer to play the role of Albert. “I saw hundreds of actors, but no one had the heart, the spirit and the communication skills that Jeremy had,” he said.

Late last year he returned to the London boards as Vince in Sam Shepard’s American gothic play BURIED CHILD at the Trafalgar Studios, alongside Ed Harris and Amy Madigan. I caught up with him in after a Saturday evening performance in December and he signed my drawing for me.

 

Drawing: An Inspector Calls at The Playhouse Theatre

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Celebrated British director Stephen Daldry’s award-laden West End and Broadway production of J B Priestley’s classic thriller AN INSPECTOR CALLS returned to the London stage this winter at the Playhouse Theatre. The story of the mysterious Inspector Goole’s interrogation of the each cast member and their responsibility for the death of Eva Smith has won 19 major awards.  Stephen’s 1992 National Theatre revival transferred to New York’s Royale Theatre two years later. Over 4 million people have seen it worldwide, including a UK Tour in 2011/12. The current production was initially for a limited season, but has now been extended. Trying to fit in a montage of seven cast members ( Inspector Goole twice) doesn’t leave much room for their names and production details, but I managed to squeeze Clive Francis, Liam Brennan, Barbara Marten, Matthew Douglas, Carmela Corbett, Hamish Riddle and the 88 year-old acting veteran Diana Payne-Myers into the rendered mix. they all signed it for me when i left it at the theatre last week.