One of cricket’s most popular players is the England all-rounder Moeen Ali. Known fondly as ‘The Beard that’s Feared’, Moeen is a Muslim of Pakistani descent born in Birmingham. He signed for Warwickshire County team in 2004 at the age of 15, making his first class debut the following year.
Moeen bats left-handed and bowls right-arm off-breaks. While he built a reputation as an elegant batsman, it was his off-spin bowling that earned him the call-up to the England side in 2014 after the surprise retirement of Graeme Swan. He made his test debut against Sri Lanka at Lords and scored his maiden test ton in the second test at Headingly, unbeaten on 108 when England went within two balls of saving the series with Jimmy Anderson bowled off the penultimate ball.
Moeen plays in all formats for the National side. Earlier in 2014 he was selected for the ODI series in the West Indies and the World T20 in Bangladesh a few weeks later. He has 5 Test and 3 ODI centuries with a highest score of 155 and 128 respectively and 72 in T20. His best test figures are 6/53 against South Africa at Lords in 2017. Moeen’s charity work includes being an Ambassador for ‘StreetChance’, which holds free weekly cricket coaching clinics for deprived children across the UK.
Moeen signed my sketch after England’s victory over India in the 5th and final test of the series at the Kia Oval in September.
Scottish actor Jack Lowden won the Olivier Award for his harrowing portrayal of an ailing and anguished artist in Richard Eyre’s London revival of Ibsen’s GHOSTS. Initially staged at the Almeida in the Autumn of 2013, the production transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in the West End, concluding in March 2014. Jack played Oswald Alving opposite Lesley Manville (who also won the Olivier) as Helen,his widowed mother. He has inherited syphilis from his lecherous late father and as his heath deteriorates, returns home from living as a painter in Paris, where falls for the maid Regina, who turns out to be his philandering father’s illegitimate daughter.
The subject matter of religion, general disease, incest and euthanasia, “caused an explosion of outrage and critical venom,” said the director, when it was first staged in 1882 in the US. In his five-star review for the Telegraph, Charles Spencer wrote, “Jack Lowden, big, shambolic and increasingly distraught as her bohemian artist son conveys the ugly, egotism of the chronically sick and the sheer terror of his terrible illness. The plays closing moments are almost too upsetting to watch.”
Jack is currently back on the London stage after enjoying his first major international onscreen success in the 2016 BBC miniseries WAR AND PEACE. He stars opposite Hayley Atwell in Shakespeare’s MEASURE FOR MEASURE at the Donmar Warehouse, Josie Rourke’s final production as artistic director for the intimate Covent Garden venue. In a unique gender-reversal, Jack and Hayley alternate the roles of Angelo and Isabella during the play. Jack signed my sketch when he arrived for last Saturday’s matinee.
Anglo-Irish playwright, screenwriter and director Martin McDonagh’s latest stage play A VERY VERY VERY DARK MATTER opened last week at London’s Bridge Theatre. Set in Copenhagen, it delves behind the dark sources of the beloved fairytales of Danish children’s author Hans Christian Anderson.
Martin is a person I admire greatly. With no formal training he wrote a stack of plays in 1990s that made him one of the most celebrated new English-language dramatists of his generation. The first six, separated into two trilogies, are located in and around County Galway on Ireland’s western seaboard, where he spent most of his childhood holidays. His first non-Irish play, THE PILLOWMAN was staged at the National Theatre in 2003, winning the Olivier Award for Best New Play and was also Tony nominated in 2005. He had previously won the Olivier for THE LIEUTENANT OF INISMORE and collected his third for HANGMEN in 2016. He is yet to win a Tony after four nominations.
Martin has stated that it’s the screen, not the stage that is his favourite medium. In that realm, he is very very very much in demand after his third feature, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, which he wrote and directed, featured heavily during the latest awards season with seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Original Screenplay. It won five BAFTAs from nine nominations, winning Best Film and Best British Film and Best Original Screenplay for Martin who also claimed the producing, writing and directing Golden Globes. He’s no stranger to film awards. His screenplay for his first feature, IN BRUGES (2008) won the BAFTA and he received his fourth nomination for an Oscar, which he won on his first attempt in 2005 for SIX SHOOTER in the Best Live Action Short category.
I was very very very pleased to meet Martin at the World Premiere of A VERY VERY VERY DARK MATTER at the Bridge Theatre last week where he signed my sketch.
The ‘fantastic’ (as Guardian critic Jake Nevins called her) Blair Brown returned to the Broadway stage late last year in Beau Willimon’s political play THE PARISIAN WOMAN at the Hudson Theatre alongside Uma Thurman after a 15 year absence. It was hardly a break from the New York stage, coming hot-on-the-heels of her off-Broadway run in ON THE SHORE OF THE WILD WORLD. She also has a long list of TV credits, the most recent being ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK.
My personal favourite was THE DAYS AND NIGHTS OF MOLLY DODD which ran for five seasons from 1987-1991. Blair played the title role, a bohemian woman in her thirties struggling with her career, men (and the occasional woman) and family where ‘her warmth and emotional accessibility were the root cause of most of Molly’s problems in life’. Blair was nominated for an Emmy Award for the five consecutive years the show aired. After ‘Molly Dodd’ she became a prolific Broadway actress, winning a Tony Award for her role as Margrethe, wife of physicist Niels Bohr in Michael Frayn’s COPENHAGEN at the Royal Theatre.
I sent this sketch to Blair while she was appearing at the Hudson Theatre earlier this year and was very pleased to get it back, signed and dedicated.
Arguably the world’s best batsman and the current number one in both test and ODI formats, the Indian skipper Virat Kohli etched himself further into cricketing immortality yesterday when he became the fastest player to reach 10,000 ODI runs, surpassing fellow Indian great Sachin Tendulkar. The milestone came in a remarkable match against the West Indies at Visakhapatnam, which ended in a thrilling tie. Virat finished unbeaten on 157, his 37th ODI century in 205 innings. He is the 13th person to pass 10,000 runs and the fifth Indian to join the elite list.
During the late summers tour of England he became the highest run-scorer in all formats of the game for 2018. His astounding stats also include 24 Test centuries with a top score of 243. ESPN has ranked him as one of the planets most famous athletes and this year TIME included him on its 100 most influential people in the world list.
Virat signed my drawing at the teams hotel in London last month, during the fifth and final Test against England at the Kia Oval, a series in which he scored the most runs by some distance.
Although Sir David Hare is best known for his multi-award winning stage work, the distinguished English writer and director has also had great success with his screen career. He won the BAFTA for writing and directing LICKING HITLER in 1978, a television play about the black propaganda unit operating in England during WWII, and has been nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes for his THE HOURS (2003) and THE READER (2009) adapted screenplays. He won the Writers Guild of America award for the former.
Sir David signed my quick portrait sketch at the recent BFI London Film Festival’s Gala screening of THE WHITE CROW, which he wrote about Soviet ballet legend Rudolph Nureyev’s defection to the West, directed by Ralph Fiennes.
Considered as one of the finest classical actors of his time, Sir Antony Sher joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1982. Three years later, in his breakthrough role as RICHARD III he won his first Olivier Award, which he described as “my first attempt at one of the great roles.” Since then he has played them all – Lear, Macbeth, Shylock, Titus to name a few.
His second Olivier was for his portrayal of English painter Stanley Spencer in STANLEY in 1987. Sir Antony’s Shakespearian accolades don’t stop with his stagework, winning a Screen Actors Guild award in the same year as part of the ensemble cast in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.
Sir Antony signed my RIchard III sketch at the Harold Pinter Theatre stage door on Saturday as he arrived for his final performance in the first production of the PINTER AT THE PINTER season.
Celebrated South Korean film director and writer Lee Chang-dong was one of the guests at this year’s BFI London Film Festival, which has just concluded. His latest film BURNING was chosen for a Gala Screening and he also delivered a screen talk.
Fresh from success at the Cannes Film Festival where the mystery drama was in competition for the Palm d’Or, Lee won the Federation Internationale de la Presse Cinematographique – the International Critics prize. He had previously collected the Best Screenplay award in 2010 for his film POETRY. Lee was also South Korea’s Minister of Culture and Tourism in 2003/2004 which was part of President Roh Moo-hyun’s election promise to fill the position from the field of culture rather than a professional politician.
He signed my sketch at the BFI on London’s Southbank before his screen talk on Saturday.
The first time I met French composer Alexandre Desplat was at the opening night of fellow Parisian Michel Legrand‘s THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG at London’s Gielgud Theatre in 2011. I asked him for an autograph and he was apologeticly reluctant to oblige because of the highest esteem he held for the legendary Michel, who was also in attendance and signing only a few feet away. He waited until Michel had gone into the theatre and then was happy to my accommodate my request. I admired his class and courtesy.
Since then Alexandre has gone on to establish his own niche in the history of film composition. After his Hollywood breakthrough in 2003 with the musical score for GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING, he has won every accolade going, including two Academy Awards for THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014) and this year, THE SHAPE OF WATER. He was also nominated for THE IMITATION GAME in 2014, so the odds of winning his first Oscar were greatly enhanced. He repeated his success at the BAFTAs as well as THE KING’S SPEECH in 2011 and has also added two Golden Globes and two Grammys to his awards cabinet.
I think it won’t end there. Alexandre was part of the industry programme at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. I was lucky to meet the charming Frenchman afterwards at the Picturehouse Central Cinema earlier this week, where he signed my portrait.
British comic Ramesh Ranganathan seems to be everywhere on the TV these days. Since he’s appeared or is appearing on most of the popular panel shows it would be quicker to mention the ones he hasn’t.
Ramesh, who was born in Crawley, West Sussex – hence his autobiography title ‘Straight Outa Crawly: Memoirs of a Distinctly Average Human Being’- is of Sri Lankan Tamil descent. After studying maths at London University’s Birbeck College, he taught the subject at Hazelwick School in his home town and was also a successful freestyle rapper called ‘Ranga’, before succumbing to satire, turning into a professional comedian in 2012. A year later he was nominated for the Best Newcomer at The Edinburgh Comedy Awards.
His comic style is described as deadpan. His latest TV series JUDGE ROMESH is an unscripted show which sees him presiding over genuine disputes in a fictional court, metering out comic judgement. I managed to catch Romesh to sign this sketch as he was quickly exiting the Soho Theatre a few weeks ago after a ‘work in progress’ performance.