Drawing: Laura Rogers in Pressure

Autographed drawing of Laura Rogers in Pressure at the Ambassadors Theatre on London's West End

Welsh-born actress Laura Rogers returned to the West End in June in David Haig’s wartime play PRESSURE, which concludes its run at the Ambassadors Theatre this Saturday.

Born in Swansea, Laura left at the age of eighteen to attend RADA in London and has been based in the capital since. She was last seen in THE 39 STEPS at the Criterion Theatre in 2011, having appeared in four productions at Shakespeare’s Globe, including the role of Lady Macbeth. Laura is also well-known to television and film viewers, having featured in such high profile shows as DOCTOR WHO and HOLBY CITY and her role as Sheena Williams in the ITV drama BAD GIRLS.

PRESSURE is based on the true story of Royal Air Force meteorologist James Stagg, and Operation Overlord, particularly the weather-forecasting for the D-Day landings during the Second World War, advising the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Laura plays Kay Summersby, Ike’s driver and later secretary and confidante. It’s a role she originated for the 2014 World Premiere at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh and has been with the production ever since, which has included at transfer to the Chichester Festival Theatre, a National tour, London’s Park Theatre and the current West End residency at the Ambassadors.

She signed this drawing for me after a Saturday evening performance a few weeks ago.

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Drawing: Malcolm Sinclair in Pressure

Autographed drawing of Malcolm Sinclair in Pressure at the Ambassadors Theatre on London's West End

English actor Malcolm Sinclair has played an extensive number of film, television, radio and theatre roles since the 1980’s, including his Olivier-nominated portrayal of Major Miles Flack in the Donmar Warehouse 2001 revival of PRIVATES ON PARADE.

His latest is General Dwight D.Eisenhower in the West End transfer of David Haig’s PRESSURE, at the Ambassadors Theatre. The war weather play with its multifunctional metaphorical title is a superb dramatisation of the preparations for Operation Overlord
and the D-Day landings during WWll. It centres on the tension between wartime meteorologists, Scotsman James Stagg ( David Haig) and American Irving P. Klick ( Philip Cairns), who are advising ‘Ike’, the chain-smoking supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, on the weather forecast for the Normandy invasion.

Malcom, like David, has been with the production since it originated at the Lyceum in Edinburgh in 2014, moving to the Chichester Festival Theatre before a National tour followed by a run at London’s Park Theatre before finally settling into the West End where it finishes this weekend.

In her 2014 Review for the Evening Standard, Fiona Mountford wrote, “Cracking performance from Malcolm Sinclair. He is an actor of commanding presence who can chill a theatre merely by walking on stage and he does that here.” In his Guardian review for this year’s West End transfer, Michael Billington said, “Malcolm Sinclair is exemplary as Eisenhower.”

I caught up with Malcolm when he arrived for last Saturday’s matinee I addressing him as ‘Mr President’ in reference to his character’s elevation to the US Presidency, not knowing at the time that he was also the former President of the Actors Equity for the past eight years. Either way he signed my Ike sketch.

Drawing: Andy Zaltzman

Autographed drawing of comedian Andy Zaltzman

“Probably one of the finest satirical comedians this country’s ever produced,” is how Time Out describes English satirist Andy Zaltzman. He has firmly established himself in the vanguard of British comedy with his unique brand of political satire with a style that centres around verbal dexterity and an extensive use of the pun, especially the ‘pun runs’.

Andy has been performing at the Edinburgh Fringe since 1999 and has worked extensively with John Oliver. In 2004 they began hosting the POLITICAL ANIMAL stand-up show which Andy hosted solo from 2006, transferring to BBC Radio 4. From October 2007 until June 2016 Andy and John co-hosted the weekly satirical comedy podcast THE BUGLE. John left due to other commitments, and now Andy has a rotating group who share the hosting duties.

He is also a huge cricket fan, doing guest commentary on a variety of formats and contributes to a regular blog on CRICINFO. I took the opportunity to meet him at the Soho Theatre last month, where he was performing his SATIRIST FOR HIRE gig.

Audience members had the opportunity to submit ‘satiric-queries’ they cared about, which Andy satirised. I did this very quick sketch, based on the poster at the theatre and he signed it to my wife (a serial BUGLE devotee) and I and took a photo of it… probably for evidence in a visual defamation case.

Drawing: Li Na

Autographed drawing of tennis player Li Na

China’s Li Na is Asia’s most successful tennis player, regarded as the trailblazing pioneer for the sport in the region and responsible for an ‘explosion’ of players, calculated at 15 million.

An estimated 116 million watched her beat Italy’s Francesca Schiavone to win the French Open in 2011. It was the first of her two Grand Slam singles titles, adding the Australian Open in 2014. She was also runner-up in both those tournaments, a semi-finalist at the US Open and a three-time quarter-finalist at Wimbledon, rising to the world’s Number 2 ranking in February 2014. She was also a singles semi-finalist at her home Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

Li appeared on the cover of TIME in 2013, named in its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. She retired in September the following year. She signed my drawing at this year’s Wimbledon Championships where she was competing in the Invitational Doubles.

Drawing: Tuppence Middleton, John Hopkins and Julia Sandiford in The One

Autographed drawing of Tuppence Middleton, John Hopkins and Julia Sandiford in The One at the Soho Theatre in London's West End

Vicky Jones’ vicious relationship drama, THE ONE, originally staged in 2014, returned to the Soho Theatre for a two-month residency, ending this weekend.

One night, one room. Sexy, messed-up oddball couple, Jo (Tuppence Middleton) and Harry (John Hopkins) are drawing the battlelines of their relationship with sex, violence and throwing Wotsits (that’s a British brand of cheesy flavoured corn puffs for the uninitiated). They are trapped in a destructive cycle of love and lust, interrupted by an upset visitor, Harry’s former lover Kerry with her own agenda, who ‘re-equips’ the couple when they run out of ammo.

Described as ‘sadistic games of bored people’ a ‘forensic unflinching examination of the casual cruelty couples inflict on each other.’ In his review for WhatsOnStage, Alun Hood said, “The acting is astonishing: detailed and unsparing… a tremendously accomplished fusion of writing, performance and stagecraft, that entertains as much as it shocks.”

John, Tuppence and Julia kindly signed my montage scribble a couple of weeks ago at the Soho.

Drawing: Conchita Martinez

Autographed drawing of tennis player Conchita Martinez

Conchita Martinez became the first Spanish player to win the Wimbledon Ladies Singles title, beating Martina Navratilova in the 1994 final. She was also runner-up in the 1998 French and the 2000 Australian Opens.

In an 18 year career, Conchita won 33 singles and 13 doubles titles and was also a member of the successful Spanish team that dominated the Fed Cup during the 1990’s, winning the premier team competition five times. At the Olympics, Conchita won two silver medals and a bronze in doubles, at Barcelona, Athens and Atlanta respectively. She was the part-time coach of fellow Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, guiding her to the Wimbledon Singles title last year.

Conchita signed my sketch of her lifting the silver Venus Rosewater salver after her Wimbledon win at this year’s Championships, where she was a media commentator and a participant in the Ladies Invitational Doubles.

Drawing: Alex Lawther in The Jungle

Autographed drawing of Alex Lawther in The Jungle at the Playhouse Theatre on London's West End

“The most important play in the West End.” That’s the five-star verdict of critic Dominic Cavendish in his review of THE JUNGLE. “Astonishing. The West End just got a heart transplant,” he said in the Telegraph.

Originally commissioned by the National Theatre, THE JUNGLE is a series of vivid snapshots of life, loss, fear, community and hope in the sprawling refugee camp that existed for a year near Calais on the French northern coastline, known as ‘The Jungle’.

Written by Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, who had first-hand experience of the camp, running a pop-up theatre called ‘Good Chance’ and co-directed by Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin, the production transferred from a sold-out run at the Young Vic last year, across the river to The Playhouse Theatre.

Veteran Guardian critic Michael Billington also gave the production five stars, calling it a “priceless piece of theatre… that moved to the West End with all its vital organs in tact.”

The immersive show has transformed the traditional venue. Audiences can either sit amongst the bustling Afghan Cafe in the stalls or watch from the ‘Cliffs of Dover’ seating in the dress circle. Regarded as one of Britain’s rising stars, twenty-three year old Alex Lawther plays Sam, a ‘brattish, but terrifyingly efficient’ Etonian posh boy. He describes the Jungle as “Glastonbury, without the toilets.”

Alex will be familiar to viewers of the Netflix series THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD and was the young Alan Thuring in 2014 Oscar-nominated film THE IMITATION GAME. I caught up with him to sign this sketch on his last day with the London production, arriving for Saturday’s matinee before he starts a new project. He will rejoin the cast when it transfers to New York later in the year.

Drawing: Jen Kirkman

Autographed drawing of comedian Jen Kirkman

Massachusetts-born, LA-based comedian, podcaster and actor Jen Kirkman brought her THE ALL NEW MATERIAL, GIRL tour to London’s Soho Theatre earlier this year for a sell-out run and returned for a one-night only gig at the Leicester Square Theatre in June.

She does regular stand-up at the Hollywood Improv and The Laugh Factory. On TV she’s a panellist on CHELSEA LATELY and narrates DRUNK HISTORY, while her podcast I SEEM FUN gets 50,000 downloads a month. Jen is a stand-up consultant and writer for Amy Sherman-Palladino’s latest hit series THE MARVELOUS MRS MAISEL, which won two Golden Globes recently and has six Emmy nominations.

In a Guardian interview earlier this year she said, “My fan base tends to be, for want of a better phrase, on the punk-rock side of life, feminists, lesbians, guys who wear nail polish, mums who are really fun and like to drink a lot.” She also said the audiences are different, depending on the day. “Monday’s are more responsive, anyone going out on a Monday must be a die-hard fan. Whereas on Fridays, people have worked all week, they’re tired and angry… and drinking. Friday’s are the toughest, weird energy. Saturday’s are just rowdy, so if you can combine the loyalty of Monday with the rowdiness of Saturday that would be ideal.”

Jen signed my drawing for me at her Leicester Square one show only on 22 June. It was a Friday.

Drawing: Tommy Steele in The Glenn Miller Story and Scrooge: The Musical

Autographed drawing of Tommy Steele in Scrooge: The Musical at the London Palladium and in The Glen Miller Story at the London Coliseum

Britain’s original teen idol and rock ‘n’ roll star, Tommy Steele returned to the London Coliseum, sixty years after he made his stage debut in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA. This time he headlines THE GLENN MILLER STORY for a limited seven week engagement, celebrating one of the world’s best-selling recording artists, legendary American big-band leader, Glenn Miller, who had 23 number 1 hits between 1939-1943.

Tommy was last seen on the London stage in 2012 at the London Palladium as Ebenezer Scrooge in SCROOGE: THE MUSICAL adapted from the 1970 film SCROOGE featuring Albert Finney in the title role. The production was part of a UK and Ireland Christmas season tour between 2003-2013, which also included a run at the Palladium in 2005.

Tommy was included among the British Cultural Icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake in 2012 to appear in a new version of his famous artwork, The Beatles’ SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND album cover to celebrate British cultural figures of the last sixty years. He signed my Glenn Miller/ Scrooge sketch at the Palladium after performing the Saturday matinee a couple weeks ago.

Drawing: Martin Kemp in Chicago

Autographed drawing of Martin Kemp in Chicago at the Phoenix Theatre on London's West End

Spandau Ballet bassist and actor Martin Kemp made his West End debut early last month, taking over from Cuba Gooding Jr as the nefarious lawyer Billy Flynn in the London revival of CHICAGO at the Phoenix Theatre. No stranger to the stage, Martin was last seen in the capital as the legendary record producer Sam Phillips in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at the Royal Festival Hall in 2017.

While discussing his CHICAGO gig in an interview Martin said the playing the West End was always on his list of things to do. “It’s nice to be in the centre of town”, and it’s the first time he’s sung in character on stage. Did Cuba give him any advice? ” Yes , he said,”watch it as many times as you can.”

Although Martin’s ‘Billy’ is a little different than Cuba’s. “That’s the beauty playing Billy Flynn, we all interpret it differently and agrees it’s such a great part. “Billy commands the stage and everything’s in my key. He’s the devil that gets the girls to sell their souls.”

I met him arriving at the stage door on Saturday, where he signed this sketch. “Thanks man,” he said. Martin is scheduled until early September.