Drawing: Yuja Wang

The ever popular Chinese classical pianist Yuja Wang returned to London just before Christmas to a packed, returns-only Wigmore Hall recital with violinist leoniadas Kavakos.

Starting at the age of six, Yuja rose to prominence and became an internationally recognised concert pianist by the age of 20. “For me, playing music is about transporting to another way of life, another way of being,” she said in an LA Times interview.

In 2017 she was named Musical America’s Artist of the Year. Apart from her musical skills and technique she is known for her ‘especially correct posture, elegant, nearly exemplary’ and her eye-catching attire and glamorous stage presence.

Yuja signed this drawing I left at Wigmore Hall, returning it this week.

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Drawing: Michel Roux

Autographed drawing of Chef Michel Roux

My culinary collection continues. French-born chef Michel Roux opened ‘Le Gavroche’ (the urchin) with his brother Alain in 1967. It became the first three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Britain and after its success they opened ‘The Waterside Inn’ in Bray, Berkshire in 1972. It became the first restaurant outside France to hold three Michelin stars for a period of 25 years.

As food critic Max Davidson wrote in 2002 ,”Nothing flash, just mouthful after mouthful of pure quality.” Among his many awards is the unique and prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France.

I always enjoy watching Michel Senior on the BBC 2’s SATURDAY KITCHEN and his various other television appearances. I sent him this drawing to sign, which he quickly did and returned it last week.

Drawing: Stanley Townsend in Glengarry Glen Ross

The latest London revival of David Mamet’s contemporary classic double-dealing real-estate drama GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS heads into its final week at the Playhouse Theatre. Playing Shelley ‘the machine’ (more accurately ‘has-been’) Levine is distinguished Irish actor Stanley Townsend opposite Christian Slater.

Having just played an American in the Minnesota-set GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY at the Old Vic, before its transfer to the Noel Coward Theatre, Stanley was already vocally primed for the Chicago-based GLENGARRY when it opened last October.

Richard Jordan in his opinion piece for The Stage wrote, “when the Olivier nominations are announced in March I very much hope to see Stanley Townsend among the nominees… (who) gives a superb performance as Shelley Levine, the beaten-down salesman, clinging on to his job in a toxic workplace.”

Stanley signed my sketch for me a few weeks ago at the stage door after I was fortunate enough to see a Saturday matinee performance.

Drawing: Marcus Wareing

Autographed drawing of chef Marcus Wareing

Continuing my combination of vices-cooking shows and sketching – I’ve been on a scribbling spree over the past fortnight, sending my sketches to some of my favourite British chefs.

First back was Marcus Wareing, described as an ‘ambassador for British cooking.’ Since starting his cuisine career at the age of 18, he won his first Michelin star at 26, one of only a handful to do so at such a young age. Marcus and his wife Jane operate three London restaurants, opening the double-Michelin star winning ‘Marcus Wareing at the Beckley’ in Balgravia (now known simply as ‘Marcus’) in 2008, adding ‘The Gilbert Scott’ at the St Pancreas Renaissance Hotel and ‘Tredwells’ in Seven Dials in the West End.

He lists his main value as “excellence without pretence”. Apart from his Michelin stars, Marcus has accumulated a number of accolades, including Tatler Restauranter of the year, GQ Chef of the Year, Catey and Acorn Awards. In 2014 he replaced Michel Roux Jr as a judge and mentor on the TV series MASTERCHEF: THE PROFESSIONALS (UK).

I mailed this drawing to Marcus at ‘Marcus’, which he signed and returned within a couple of days.

Drawing: Ivan Vasiliev in Spartacus

Autographed drawing of Ivan Vasiliev in Spartacus with the Bolshoi Ballet

When ballet critics described the eighteen-year-old Russian dancing prodigy Ivan Vasiliev as the next Nureyev and Baryshnikov, he replied “I am not the next Nureyev or the next Baryshnikov, I am the original Ivan Vasiliev.”

Four years later, in 2010, the ‘rocket man’ – dubbed because of his aerial brilliance and explosive leaps – returned to London’s Covent Garden with the Bolshoi’s production of SPARTACUS and continued to wow audiences and critics alike.

Mark Monahan, in his Telegraph review wrote, Ivan “leaves you unable entirely to believe what you saw… Vasiliev is the reason to see this ballet, queue overnight for return tickets: this boy from Vladivostok is a fully-formed superstar and he will blow your mind.” Now 29, the ‘boy who can fly’ is part of the Mikhailovsky Theatre troupe, after a stint as Principle with the American Ballet Theatre in 2012-13.

He returned to London last week to perform for the English National Ballet in LE JEUNE HOMME ET LA MORT at the London Coliseum where he signed my drawing.

Drawing: Rory Kinnear in Young Marx

Autographed drawing of Rory Kinnear in Young Marx at The Bridge Theatre in London

Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr both left the National Theatre in 2015 and have established London’s first commercial playhouse in 80 years, the brand spanking new £12.5 million, 900 seat auditorium Bridge Theatre next to the City Hall on prime South Bank real estate, under the shadow of Tower Bridge. It opened last October with the new comedy, YOUNG MARX, written by Richard Bean and Clive Colman, reuniting the team behind one of the NT’s biggest smash hits ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS.

Directed by Sir Nicholas, it featured Rory Kinnear in the title role, as the renowned revolutionary and author of ‘Das Kapital’ who, as a 32-year-old German Jew is living in penurious exile in Soho’s Dean Street with his wife and children. It attempts to synthesise the the spirits of Karl and Groucho, demystifying Marx as ‘broke, restless and horny… a frothing combination of intellectual brilliance, invective, satiric wit and child-like emotional illiteracy’… and a bit of a piss-artist who aims to have a pint in every pub in Tottenham Court Road.

Paul Taylor in his four-star review for the Independent wrote, “Rory Kinnear is on glorious form here-believably both as a high-powered intellectual and a greasy-maned emotional disaster area.” Rory signed my drawing for me after I left it at the stage door before the show ended last week.

Drawing: Julian Clary in Dick Whittington

Autographed drawing of Julian Clary in Dick Whittington at the London Palladium

Putting Julian Clary in a show with the word ‘dick’ in it is like the preverbal kid in a sweet shop. He headlined London Palladium’s festive season’s hit panto, DICK WITTINGTON.

“The star of the gig is Julian Clary,” wrote Paul Vale in his review for The Stage, “playing the Spirit of the Bells, Clary is sheer pantomime gold, coasting through the plot with feigned indifference and his legendary lethal and camp delivery.” The Telegraph’s Claire Allfree added, “Clary once again reigns utterly supreme with a parade of exquisitely, outlandish outfits and extremely smutty gags.”

It finished last weekend, so I joined a sizeable gathering of fans waiting at the stage door for the final Saturday matinee for the arrival of Julian and the all-star cast. “This looks clever,” he said as he signed my drawing.

Drawing: Michael Jibson in Hamilton

Autographed drawing of Michael Jibson in Hamilton at Victoria Palace Theatre on London's West End

The smash-hit Broadway musical HAMILTON has rolled into London Town and it’s the hottest ticket in the West End. Lin Manual Miranda’s hip hop retelling of the rags to riches story of America’s founding father Alexander Hamilton has moved into the Victoria Palace Theatre for the long haul.

One of the audience favourites is Michael Jibson in his scene-stealing turn as an exasperated King George III – a pantomime baddie with his show-stopping ‘You’ll be Back.’ Michael’s one of the UK’s most versatile stage and screen actors from his Olivier nominated role in OUR HOUSE at the the Cambridge Theatre in 2002 to the factory foreman in the film version of LES MISERABLES. I meet Michael after last Saturday’s matinee where he signed my drawing.

Drawing: Jamael Westman in Hamilton

Autographed drawing of Jamael Westman in Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre on London's West End

“Believe the hype!”

The multi-award-winning Broadway sensation, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s visionary hip-hop, rap and R&B musical HAMILTON has taken London by storm and every critic agrees, it’s better than the hype. Luckily we managed to get tickets for a matinee in early February.

It’s all about Alexander Hamilton, the ‘bastard, orphan son of a whore and a Scotsman’, who leaves the Caribbean to become the first secretary of the US Treasury and George Washington’s right hand man. It’s a thrilling salute to America’s immigrants and given the current administration in charge… enough said.

In the lead role, taking over from Lin-Manuel himself is 25 year-old RADA graduate Jamael Westman. In the programme he lists only two shows since his graduation two years ago… oh, and like most actors in the UK he had a minor role in CASUALTY.

Andrzej Lukowski in his five-star Time Out review wrote, “Relative newcomer Jamael Westman is a revelation in the title role: he can spit lines like a machine gun, sing like a dream and being both young and prodigiously tall he perfectly channels Hamilton’s gaucheness as the socially inept but relentlessly driven immigrant, sets about trying to liberate and reform America.”

I popped over to the restored Victoria Palace Theatre last Saturday after the matinee, where HAMILTON has taken up a long term residency, and luckily caught up with Jamael, who was very cool and more than happy to sign my drawing.

Drawing: John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby in Midsomer Murders

Autographed drawing of John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby in Midsomer Murders

One of my absolute favourite actors is John Nettles, who I have had the pleasure of meeting at a couple of Theatre Press nights in London over the past decade. If his role as Jim Bergerac in the Jersey-based TV crime drama BERGERAC made him a household name in the UK in the 1980’s, his follow-up policeman DCI Tom Barnaby in the murder, mystery series MIDSOMER MURDERS made him a global household name.

After his final appearance in February 2011 he had the recurring role of Ray Penvenen in the second series of POLDARK. I must say Midsomer’s hasn’t been the same since he left but all the reruns have been welcomed.

Now I did this portrait of John as Tom, but how to get it signed? Then I discovered he was a guest at the Carols by Candlelight fundraiser for the Royal Brompton Hospital at St Luke’s in Chelsea just before Christmas. So I left it with the very friendly folk at the church with a stamped envelope and, to my delight, it arrived back last week with an immaculate autograph and dedication.