Drawing: Claire Price in King Lear

Autographed drawing of Claire Price in King Lear at the Duke of York's Theatre on London's West End

Claire Price joined the cast of Jonathan Munby’s KING LEAR, for its limited West End transfer to the Duke of York’s, after the productions critically acclaimed sell-out run at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre.

Claire plays the ruthless, uptight older sister Goneril… described by one reviewer as a ‘Sloaney, (for those not familiar with the term, it’s a portmanteau of Sloane Square in London’s Chelsea, famed for the wealth and affluent lifestyle of its residents) pearls-and-headscarf Goneril’.

Claire is no stranger to Shakespeare. Previous roles include Beatrice in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Miranda in THE TEMPEST and Rosalind in AS YOU LIKE IT. She’s also well known to UK TV viewers as DS Siobhan Clarke in REBUS and many guest appearances on popular shows such as AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT and MIDSOMER MURDERS.

Thankfully Claire is the complete opposite to her LEAR stage persona and signed my sketch at the stage door, heading in for last Saturday’s matinee, one of the 100 performances scheduled to finish in early November.

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Drawing: Elaine Cassidy in Aristocrats

Autographed drawing of Elaine Cassidy in Aristocrats at the Donmar Warehouse on London's West End

Award-winning London-based Irish actress Elaine Cassidy has spent most of her stage time over the past four years at the Donmar Warehouse and the majority of that under the direction of Lyndsay Turner in Brian Friel plays. In 2014 she appeared in the late, great Irish dramatist’s – often referred to as the Irish Ckekov – adaptation of Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev’s best known work, FATHER AND SONS and returned this year in his haunting 1979 piece ARISTOCRATS, a play about a generation whose past threatens to obliterate its future, which finished its two month run last weekend.

It’s the first major revival of this minor modern classic since Brian’s death three years ago. In between the two productions, Elaine stepped in at the 11th hour to replace Michelle Dockery in LES LIASIONS DANGEREUSES. Central to the ARISTOCRATS are the damaged O’Donnell sibblings, who gather at their crumbling family home, Ballybeg Hall in Donegal for the marriage of sister Claire. It’s a far cry from the former glory days. Elaine played Alice, an alcoholic, described by Paul Taylor in his Independent review as ‘elegantly sozzled’ with ‘brutal fits of self- awareness.’

She signed my sketch at the Donmar during the final week of the production.

Drawing: Ammar Haj Ahmad in The Jungle

Autographed drawing of Ammar Haj Ahmad in The Jungle at The Playhouse Theatre on London's West End

“It’s not about refugees, it’s about humans,” said Syrian actor Ammar Haj Ahmad in a recent interview about the theatrical phenomenon, THE JUNGLE in which he stars and leads a multinational, multiethnic cast, vividly recreating the life in the sprawling makeshift camp called ‘the jungle’ in Calais on France’s northern coast, where thousands gathered from all corners of the world to escape war and terror, hoping to cross the English Channel and build a new life.

Ammar plays Safi, the main spokesperson for the Jungle’s inhabitants, who also functions in the play as the guide and chronicler. In 2011, Ammar was a cast member in a production of the Arabian classic ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS, which completed its global tour in Edinburgh. His visa ran out, but the crisis back in this homeland had escalated to the point where he felt he could not return. He contacted the British Home Office to apply for asylum and the 36 year-old has not returned to Syria since.

The Broadway-bound National Theatre and Young Vic co-production with the playwrighters Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s Good Chance Theatre premiered at the Young Vic last November. Directed by Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin, it transferred across the river to the Embankment’s Playhouse Theatre earlier this year where it resides until 3 November before crossing a bigger stretch of water to New York.

The sell-out production received a powerful reaction. Audiences and critics were blown away. The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish has called it “the most important play in the West End.” The immersive nature of the play, which transports everyone into the jungle itself is “an experience we do together- actors and audience,” said Ammar. “I am truly grateful to be part of theatre that makes a difference.”

I met Ammar at the stage door after a Saturday matinee a few weeks ago where he signed my sketch.

Drawing: Danny Webb in King Lear

Autographed drawing of Danny Webb in King Lear at the Duke of York's Theatre on London's West End

Danny Webb’s extensive stage career includes moments of blindness, two grisly moments in fact, both critically acclaimed. The latest can be seen in Jonathan Munby’s ‘dazzling’ production of Shakespeare’s KING LEAR at the Duke of York’s Theatre.

Playing the Earl of Gloucester in the Chichester Festival Theatre’s West End transfer, opposite Sir Ian McKellen’s tragic monarch, Danny is tied to a chair while his eyes are gouged out, cited by one critic as channeling Quentin Tarantino’s RESERVOIR DOGS. The blinding of Gloucester scene is considered by many who consider these things as structurally and conceptually the play’s centre piece.

Eight years ago Danny won the Off West End Best Actor Award for his portrayal of Ian, a seedy, hard-drinking journo in the revival of Sarah Kane’s provocative BLASTED at the Lyric Hammersmith. Set in a luxury hotel room in Leeds, Ian and his much younger girlfriend Cate’s tryst intentions are dramatically interrupted by a soldier with a sniper’s rifle and an explosion that reduces everything to a shattered ruin. Cate escapes, but Ian is anally raped and his eyes sucked out by the menacing military man.

He signed my Shakespeare sketch a few weeks back after a matinee performance at the Duke of York’s before he returned to have his eyes ripped out that evening.

Drawing: Spike Lee

Autographed drawing of director Spike Lee

‘Spike Lee Joints’ typically refers to the acclaimed American director’s films. His latest joint, BLACKKKLANSMAN is regarded as his “most accessible and narratively satisfying movie in over a decade.” Critics have called it a return to form for the socially conscious auteur, winning the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and being nominated for the Palm d’Or. It is based on the 2014 memoirs of Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department who sets out to infiltrate and expose the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

Among his many accolades, Spike has received both an Honorary BAFTA and Oscar, with the later citing “a champion of independent film and an inspiration to young filmmakers.”

After Cannes, Spike attended a screening of BLACKKKLANSMAN at the BFI in London followed by a Q+A. I had hoped to get my sketch signed at the event, but he arrived and apologised, said he had to quickly get into the auditorium, but would see us afterwards. I was unable to wait so I sent the drawing to his film company in Brooklyn, New York and it came back signed and dedicated.

Drawing: Rose Matafeo – Horndog

Autographed drawing of Rose Matafeo in Horndog at the Soho Theatre on London's West End

Kiwi comic Rose Matafeo won the top comedy gong at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival last month with her show HORNDOG. The 26 year-old New Zealander of Samoan and Scottish/Croatian heritage, who has been honing her standup skills since the age of 15 is only the fifth woman to take the coveted Best Show Award.

The ad for HORNDOG reads that Rose ‘has kissed 10 men in her life, AKA she’s a total horndog.’ It chronicles her barely functioning love life and mid-20’s angst. Her definition of ‘horniness’ is “girls putting 100% into something that’s not worth it.” They’re looking for a passionate relationship rather than love. As a film-mad, geeky teenager she had no luck with boys, so when dating happened she became obsessed. “Go hard or go home” was her MO.

In his review, the Guardian’s Brian Logan wrote, “…a volcanic eruption of standup… Matafeo’s neurosis, intelligence and flamboyant sense of her own ridiculousness make her a near-perfect comedian.”

I caught up with the charismatic Rose after her second show at London’s Soho Theatre where she’s performing HORNDOG until the end of month and she signed my drawing.

Drawing: Andrew Polec in Bat Out Of Hell

Autographed drawing of Andrew Polec in Bat Out Of Hell at the Dominion Theatre on London's West End

After fronting the show since its inception, Andrew Polec left the Jim Steinman award- winning musical juggernaut BAT OUT OF HELL this month during its residency at London’s Dominion Theatre.

Playing the rebellious Strat, leader of the Lost gang in a post-cataclysmic city, Philadelphia-born Andrew, who completed a Masters Degree at Brown University before moving to New York, joined the production of BAT OUT OF HELL at the workshop stage, taking the lead for its world premiere at Manchester’s Opera House in February, which transferred to the London Coliseum followed by a run in Toronto before settling into its West End home in April this year.

BAT OUT OF HELL is a jukebox musical rooted in Meat Loaf’s freakishly successful 1977 album, which sold 43 million copies and spawned a multi platinum sequel in 1993. In his four-star RadioTimes review, Tony Peters called the show ” bonkers, but strangely irresistible… a thrilling assault on the senses.”

Andrew signed my drawing at the Dominion stage door after his final Saturday matinee.

Drawing: Vanessa Kirby in Julie

Autographed drawing of Vanessa Kirby in Julie at the National Theatre Lyttelton Stage in London

Vanessa Kirby’s impressive stage career is being matched by her latest screen appearances, in particular her mesmerising two-year role as Princess Margaret in Peter Morgan’s Netflick series THE CROWN, for which she won this year’s Supporting Actress TV BAFTA Award, after being nominated last year. She also collected an Emmy nomination.

She can also be seen as White Widow in the latest MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE blockbuster, FALLOUT opposite Tom Cruise. In 2106 Variety labelled her “the most outstanding stage actress of her generation, capable of the most unexpected choices.”

Vanessa signed a sketch for me in 2104 at the Young Vic in London, where she was playing Stella in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE with Gillian Anderson and Ben Foster. She won the WhatsOnStage Award for her supporting role, which is judged by the public.

Vanessa has just completed the season of Polly Stenham’s JULIE, an adaption of August Strindberg’ MISS JULIE at the National Theatre, in which she played the title role. Paul Taylor in his Independent review wrote, “Vanessa Kirby shines.”

She signed this sketch for me a few weeks ago at the stage door.

Drawing: Naomi Osaka

Autographed drawing of tennis player Naomi Osaka

This week 20 year-old Naomi Osaka beat her idol Serena Williams in straight sets to win the US open final and become the first person from Japan to win a Grand Slam singles title. Born, ironically in Osaka to a Japanese mother and Haitian-American father, the family moved to the United States, when Naomi was three, where she now lives with dual citizenship. Her father registered her with the Japanese Tennis Association when she started her tennis career, turning pro in 2013.

This year has proved to be a watershed year for the strong-serving, aggressive base-liner, winning her first Grand Slam as well as the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and seeing her ranking rise to Number 7 in the world. Naomi was only a year old when Serena won her first Grand Slam in 1999. She wrote a project about her at school, and always wanted to be like her. “Serena is the main reason why I started playing tennis,” she said.

Often, when she’s in a difficult spot during a match, Naomi will think, “What would Serena do?” Naomi says it’s a dream to play her, which she has done twice this year, winning both encounters – the second at the Miami Open in March, when Serena was returning to the circuit after the birth of her first daughter.

Naomi signed my sketch at a WTA pre-Wimbledon event on London’s Southbank a few months ago.

Drawing: Steph Parry in Mamma Mia!

Autographed drawing of Steph Parry in Mamma Mia at the Novello Theatre on London's West End

Three months ago understudy Steph Parry made headlines when she stepped in to save a neighbouring West End production with only eighteen minutes notice. Early in the first act of MAMMA MIA!, lead Caroline Deverill in the role of Donna Sheridan injured her calf muscle, with no understudy cover.

A block away, at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, understudy for 42ND STREET, Steph was sitting in the dressing room eating carrots and hummus when she was asked to pop over to continue the role of Donna in front of a sell-out audience. Steph had understudied the part five years earlier and reprised the role last year on a cruise ship. The audience reaction was euphoric when she took to the stage, greeted with a huge round of applause.

Life imitated art, the premise of 42ND STREET is an understudy’s rise from showgirl to star. As one observer noted, replacing ‘We’re In The Money’ for ‘ Money, Money, Money.’ After understudying six-and-a-half years ago for the Mrs Wilkinson role in BILLY ELLIOT, the three female parts in MAMMA MIA! and Madame Morrible in WICKED, Steph finally landed a lead role, replacing LuLu as Dorothy Brook in 42ND STREET from 9 July until last Saturday.

She signed this ‘Donna’ sketch at the Theatre Royal stage door on Saturday, before her last lead performance, returning to her understudy duties.