Itzhak Perlman is the epitome of the word legend. I know I use it often, and have been very fortunate to spend brief moments with a few who have kindly reciprocated by signing one of my scribbles. But Itzhak is undeniably the reigning virtuoso of the violin – the world’s greatest living exponent of the instrument. The 71 year-old Israeli-American
has won 15 Grammy and four Emmy Awards among countless other accolades.
When I found out he was doing a one-off appearance in London to conduct the Mozart Requiem with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus at the Royal Festival Hall last Sunday I immediately put pencil to paper and did this montage sketch, which he signed and dedicated. It’s one of my prize possessions.
Ruthie Henshall’s illustrious theatre career spans four decades, beginning with her West End debut in CATS in 1988, making appearances as Jemima, Demeter, Griddlebone and Grizabella after completing the UK tour of A CHORUS LINE. She is currently back on the London boards in the revival of CHICAGO at the Phoenix Theatre.
It’s a show she knows well. Having played Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly on a few occasions on the West End and Broadway, she is now the prison warden, Mama Morton, which makes her the only British actress to have played all CHICAGO’s leading female roles. She originated the role of Roxie in the 1997 London production, a performance that earned her one of five Olivier Award nominations. She won two years earlier for her portrayal of Amelia Balash in the revival of SHE LOVES ME.
Prior to this year’s CHICAGO, Ruthie joined the cast of BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL as the straight talking dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson for the last 18 months of it’s eleven year run at the Victoria Palace Theatre. I drew this drawing of her, which she signed for me at the Phoenix stage door on Saturday and remarked on the impressive sweater she got to wear, which, by the way took me longer to render than the rest of the sketch and she said it was and she should have kept it.
Welsh actress Sian Thomas, known for her big screen role as Amelia Bones, the Head of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry of Magic in 2007’s HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX also has an impressive set of stage credentials. She is currently playing Aunt Pat in Jez Butterworth’s epic new play THE FERRYMAN at London’s Gielgud Theatre, which ends this month.
The last time I saw Sian on the West End was in Peter Nichol’s PASSION PLAY at the Duke of York’s in 2013. She was the ‘friend’ who decides to enlighten Zoe Wannamaker’s character about her husband’s betrayal, a performance Charles Spencer in his Telegraph review describes as “memorably bitter.”
I had been carrying this sketch of Sian around in my ‘working’ file (probably ‘walking’ file is more apt given the miles I cover stalking stage doors) since I missed her at the Duke’s five years ago so took the opportunity to catch up before with her at the Gielgud on Saturday when she arrived for the matinee and signed it.
My latest Chicanery
One of the most popular and busy British theatre performers is 28 year-old Zizi Strallen. Fresh from a sell-out run of the acclaimed production FOLLIES at the National earlier this year, she is currently one of the leads in the stage adaption of Baz Luhrmann’s classic film STRICTLY BALLROOM – THE MUSICAL.
Prior to that she played the title role in Cameron Macintosh’s UK tour of MARY POPPINS throughout 2015. It’s a role her sister Scarlett also performed in the West End, Broadway and Sydney. Zizi kindly signed my Poppins pic at the Piccadilly stage door last weekend prior to the STRICTLY matinee.
One of the greatest alpine skiers of all-time is Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy. I was reminded of this fact during the coverage of this year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.
He dominated the sport in the late 1960’s, which included a clean sweep of the 1968 Olympic alpine events in Grenoble winning three golds, in the downhill, giant slalom and slalom. He also won two World Cup titles and six World Championship gold medals. I grew up watching him compete and later was a big fan of his two television series including THE KILLY CHALLENGE.
In one episode he skied down the eastern slope of the previously unskied down the side of Mt Ngauruhoe a volcano in my home country New Zealand. For LORD OF THE RINGS fans it’s the mountain used by Peter Jackson to represent Mt Doom in the screen adaption of the Tolkien trilogy. On the 35 degree slope he reached speeds in excess of 100 mph.
Jean-Claude won his first International event at the age of 18 and was included in the French team the 1962 World Championships. Unaware of his selection, he was still trying to qualify at an event in the north of Italy. On his final run, in typical reckless style he hit an ice sheet, before the finishing line, which propelled him into the air, landing on one ski, but crossing the line with the fastest time and the other leg broken. He watched the World Championships on crutches.
During this year’s Games, his name repeatedly came up in the TV commentary, so I suddenly thought I must get him to sign a drawing and quickly sent him this sketch at his home base in Geneva. He returned it within a week signed and dedicated.
Northern Irish actress Michelle Fairley is well known to TV viewers as Catelyn Stark in GAME OF THRONES and the recurring role of Dr Ava Hessington in the US Network series SUITS. She has also appeared in such British classics as THE BILL, HOLBY CITY, CASULTY and LOVEJOY. On the bigger screen, Michelle played Mrs Granger in the HARRY POTTER AND THE DEADLY HALLOWS films.
Her extensive stage work includes an Olivier Award nomination for her portrayal as Emilia in the Donmar Warehouse 2007 production of Shakespeare’s OTHELLO. Earlier this year she played the rash, impassioned soldier and conspirator Cassius in another one of the Bard’s tragedies JULIUS CAESAR at the new Bridge Theatre situated by a Tower Bridge on London’s South Bank.
It was described by the Metro’s theatre critic, appropriately named Adam Bloodworth as a “turbo-charged performance.”
I left this sketch of Michelle at the stage door and it came back, signed and dedicated.