Michelle Dockery returned to the National Theatre late last year to play the role of the ambitious TV producer Diana Christensen in the stage adaption of Paddy Chayefsky’s blistering satire NETWORK, which completed its repertory run last Saturday. After making her professional stage debut in 2004, Michelle earned an Olivier nomination five in 2009 for her supporting role as Maroussia in the National’s production of BURNT BY THE SUN. On the small screen her five year portrayal of Lady Mary Crawley in the popular TV period drama DOWNTON ABBEY, earned her a Golden Globe and Emmy Nominations. She kindly came to the stage door between shows on Saturday to sign and pose for photos and I managed to get my drawing graphed and dedicated.
Austrian Marcel Hirscher is considered the best alpine skier… ever. With a record seven consecutive World Cup titles and six World Championship gold medals he has dominated the sport like no other in the slalom-giant and combined. At this year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea he won both the combined and giant slalom titles to consolidate his status. After which I quickly drew this sketch and sent it to Marcel at his Austrian base. Even quicker than his downhill run it came back signed and dedicated.
On the stage door wall of the Noel Coward Theatre in the heart of the West End is a wonderful poster for GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY featuring the two leads, Ciaran Hinds and Shirley Henderson. I got out my pad and sketched it… and they signed it for me.
I was really pleased to see both were nominated for Olivier Awards for their ‘mesmerising’ performances, which will be announced early next month. After a sold-out run at the Old Vic, Connor McPherson’s production, featuring the music of Bob Dylan is set in the Depression era, in a guesthouse in Bob’s hometown, Duluth, Minnesota, run by the gruff owner Nick Laine (Ciaran) and his wife Elizabeth (Shirley) who suffers from dementia. They anchor a large ensemble cast.
Double-Olivier Award Winner, Samantha Spiro has joined the Wilde side in the West End, as Dominic Dromgoole’s year-long Oscar Wilde season continues at the Vaudeville Theatre with the Kathy Burke helmed LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN. Samantha is Mrs Erlynne, the ‘other woman’ suspected of having an affair with Lady Windermere’s husband, with a secret twist revealed later in the play. Lyn Gardner wrote in her Guardian review, “Dripping charm and diamonds, Spiro’s superb as a scarlet woman doing unarmed combat with Victorian moralism.”
Samantha happily signed my drawing at the stage door a few weeks ago between Saturday performances.
English actor, writer and comedian Kevin Bishop plays the ‘dashingly funny’ (The Times) Lord Darlington in Kathy Burke’s ‘vividly fresh’ revival of Oscar Wilde’s LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN at London’s Vaudeville Theatre.
Kevin is well known to small screen fans for Channel 4’s comedy sketch series THE KEVIN BISHOP SHOW, which he co-wrote with Lee Hupfield and the BBC’s remake of the classic comedy PORRIDGE. His recent London stage appearances include the one-man show FULLY COMMITTED at the Menier Chocolate Factory in which he played 40 characters and ONCE IN A LIFETIME opposite Harry Enfield at the Young Vic.
Playing Lord Darlington gives Kevin a chance to work with two of his comedy heroes, Kathy Burke and Jennifer Saunders and deliver some of Wilde’s memorable lines, such as “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” I met Kevin as he was about to take his dog for a walk between shows on Saturday. I held the leash and he took my sharpie and signed my drawing.
Twenty-two year old Czech snowboarder and alpine skier Ester Ledecka made history at this year’s Winter Olympics in Pyongyang, South Korea, becoming the first person to not only compete in snowboarding and skiing, but to win titles on two different types of equipment at the same Olympics. Known for her snowboarding prowess, the double World Champion was favoured to win the gold in the Parallel Giant Slalom and duly did so.
However, with a ranking of 49 in the Super-G Alpine Ski event and not having medalled in any international ski event previously, expectations were less ambitious. But her 21.11 second run was enough to sneak past defending champion Anna Veith from Austria by 0.01 seconds to stun the skiing world and win her second gold medal in her Olympic debut.
I quickly drew this montage and sent it to her when she returned to a hero’s welcome in her home town of Prague after the Olympics and it came back signed yesterday, along with an info card, also signed.
Another one of my favourite writers is British novelist, playwright and screenwriter Michael Frayn. Known for his plays such as DONKEYS’YEARS, NOISES OFF, (both Olivier Award winners), COPENHAGEN (Tony Award) and DEMOCRACY, his novels HEADLONG
(shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize) and SPIES (Commonwealth Writers Prize), Michael has also written screenplays, including CLOCKWISE with John Cleese.
After two years National Service, during which he learnt Russian, Michael read Moral Sciences (Philosophy) at Emmanuel College Cambridge, graduating in 1957. He became a reporter and columnist for The Guardian and The Observer newspapers and began writing plays and novels. He is also considered one of Britain’s finest translators of renowned Russian writer Anton Chekov’s work, THE SEAGULL, UNCLE VANYA and THE CHERRY ORCHARD to name a few.
When I sent Michael this sketch, I mistakenly Knighted him. He returned it, signed with an accompanying note, thanking me and saying it was “better than the original” then correcting my error, “I’m not a sir, though.” I quickly erased the evidence on my not sir Michael Frayn portrait. An even quicker and belated Google search informed me he had turned down a knighthood in 2003, stating that he liked the name ‘Michael Frayn… it’s a nice little name to run around with. I’ve spent 70 years getting used to it and I don’t want to change it now.’ It seems to be a common thing with writers – Alan Bennett, Harold Pinter, George Bernard Shaw, E.M.Forster and Rudyard Kipling – not wanting extra letters in their names.
Tom Kerridge doesn’t think of himself as a ‘Michelin-star kind of guy,’ but he is… well he has two of them, so technically he’s a Michelin-stars kinda guy. The very popular TV chef, who describes himself as ‘big, bald and easily distracted,’ and his sculptor wife Beth opened their gastropub ‘The Hand & Flowers’ in the Buckinghamshire town of Marlow on the river Thames thirty miles west of London in 2005. Within a year it had won its first Michelin, followed by a second, becoming the first pub to achieve the accolade.
Tom’s philosophy is based on the premises that food brings people together. His French, British fusion dishes are ‘sophisticated yet familar’. ‘I don’t go in for that ‘temple of gastronomy’ thing,” he says, “I just want people to have a nice time.” His signature dish is a take on the traditional hog roast, cooking pork belly in a Bain-Marie, wrapped in skin and roasted, accompanied by the stuffed pig’s trotters. Yum.
I sent this sketch to The Hand & Flowers for Tom to sign, which he did and returned immediately. Star.
Currently back on the London boards in Bryony Lavery’s psychological thriller FROZEN at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, Suranne Jones plays Nancy, a grieving mother who faces her child’s killer. It’s a performance that Michael Billington described as ‘riveting’ in his four-star review for The Guardian.
Suranne is no stranger to critical acclaim, mostly from her TV appearances. After her prominent role as Karen McDonald in the iconic British soap, CORONATION STREET (2000-2004), her breakthrough came as convicted killer Ruth Slater in the mini-series UNFORGIVEN in 2009, followed by five years as detective Rachel Bailey in SCOTT & BAILEY then GP Gemma Foster in DOCTOR FOSTER, which won her a TV BAFTA and two National Television Awards.
Her last two stage appearances received equal acclaim, playing single mum Sandra in the comedy BEAUTIFUL THING at the Arts Theatre in the West End and the epoch-hopping title role in Sarah Ruhl’s adaption of Virginia Woolf’s novel ORLANDO at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre.
Arriving at the Theatre Royal stage door on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon she happily stopped and chatted to the waiting few, commenting on the irony of the play’s title and the chilly climate and signing autographs, including this montage sketch.
After a 20 year wait, Jennifer Saunders has returned to the West End, this time as the imposing Duchess of Berwick in Kathy Burke’s production of Oscar Wilde’s LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN at the Vaudeville Theatre.
One of the most influential women in British television comedy, Jennifer kept to prominence as Vyvyan in THE YOUNG ONES and, with her comedy partner Dawn French, launched the sketch show FRENCH AND SAUNDERS in 1987, which became staple BBC viewing through to 2007. Let’s not forget the champagne-quaffing PR Edina Monsoon opposite Joanna Lumley in ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, among a raft of other memorable characters and appearances, collecting a truck-load of accolades along the way.
Her current stage performance has garnered equal plaudits, The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner calling her portrayal, “a monstrous star turn,” as “A Duchess with a walking stick like a taser and a hat like a homunculus.”
The two things Jennifer and I have in common is our age and being at the same stage door at the same time after Saturday’s matinee, where I asked her to sign this sketch. “Well done you,” she said, which is always a good sign.