The 100 Hearts Night of Comedy at the London Palladium last week gave me an opportunity to catch some more of my favourite comics, including Greg Davies. The sold-out evening raised money for the Brompton and Harefield Hospital charity.
The English comedian is technically from Wales. Davies is a clue. While living in the West Midlands of England, his Welsh father drove his mother, across the border to ensure Greg was born in Wales… in St Asaph, Flintshire to be precise, fifty years ago.
TV viewers will know Greg from a number of small screen appearances, including Mr Gilbert, the archetypal misanthropic and permanently bitter comprehensive school teacher in THE INBETWEENERS, who treats his pupils with utter contempt with biting wit and sarcasm. In another classroom role Greg played Dan, a teacher who hates his job. Thirteen years teaching Drama and English, prior to his comedic career change would have given Greg plenty of material.
He is currently in his BAFTA-nominated role as Ken Thompson in the fifth episode of the popular BBC/Netflix sitcom CUCKOO. Other high profile appearances on the telly include LIVE AT THE APOLLO, MOCK THE WEEK, WOULD I LIE TO YOU? and the host of the panel game show TASKMASTER. I was waiting at the Palladium’s impressive new stage door for the talent to arrive.
You can’t miss Greg. He is literally one of the biggest comedy stars, standing 2.03 metres, (that’s 6’8″ in the old money). I presented my sketch of Greg as a suitably harassed teacher and his friend asked, “Who’s that?” “That’s me!” he replied, which is always a good sign when they recognise themselves in a drawing, which he was pleased to sign.
Born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero eighty-six years ago in Washington DC to a Scottish-Italian mother and a Puerto Rican father, Chita Rivera has became an absolute performing phenomenon, especially in musical theatre. Last year she received the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre in recognition of her stage contribution, which has spanned nearly seven decades, starting with her first Broadway role in 1951 in CALL ME MADAM, followed by lead roles in GUYS AND DOLLS and CAN CAN. Six years later she was cast as the firebrand Anita in WEST SIDE STORY, a role that launched her towards stardom and ensured her inclusion in Broadway folklore.
Chita has received a record ten Tony nominations, winning two for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Her first was in 1984 for her performance as Anna in THE RINK opposite Liza Minnelli and again in 1993 as the vampy diva Aurora, the title character in Kander and Ebb’s KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN at the Broadhurst Theatre after reprising the role from the West End production a year earlier. Both performances also earned Chita the Drama Desk Award. In 2009 she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
Chita signed and dedicated, adding her distinctive flower doodle, my montage sketch, including her as Anita from WEST SIDE STORY, last Saturday at Wogan House after she appeared on Graham Norton’s BBC Radio 2 show prior to her concert at London’s Cadogan Hall the following day.
After his breakthrough role as the painfully shy student Todd Anderson in 1989’s DEAD POET’S SOCIETY, Ethan Hawke has gone on to appear in nearly 70 films, helmed three features and a documentary, directed three off-Broadway plays, written three novels, earning numerous accolades including four Academy Award nominations, two for Best Adapted Screenplays for BEFORE SUNSET and BEFORE MIDNIGHT and two for Best Supporting Actor as Officer Jake Hoyt in TRAINING DAY (2001) and as the father, Mason Evans Snr. in BOYHOOD (2014). He has also collected a clutch of BAFTA, Golden Globe, SAG, WAG nominations.
In fact Ethan has won 53 awards from 134 nominations to date, including an Emmy as a voice cast member of INVASION! and this year received Best Actor awards from both the New York and the London Critics Circles, and the National Society of Film Critics, amongst others, for his performance as the Reverend Ernst Toller in FIRST REFORMED. Many believed it was a major surprise that he wasn’t also Oscar nominated.
However, Ethan has stated that theatre is his ‘first love’. He received a Best Featured Actor Tony nomination in 2007 for his performance as Mikhail Balcunin in Tom Stoppard’s trilogy THE COAST OF UTOPIA at New York’s Lincoln Centre Theatre.
I was fortunate to catch Ethan on stage in 2009 as part of the transatlantic Bridge Project at London’s Old Vic theatre in Sam Mendes’ double bill, Chekhov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD and Shakespeare’s A WINTER’S TALE, in which he played Trofimov and Autolycus respectively, receiving excellent reviews.
Ethan returned to London last October for the BFI London Film Festival to support his film BLAZE, which he also wrote and featured in as a radio DJ. The non-conventional biopic of outlaw country musician Blaze Foley had it’s premiere at the Curzon Cinema in Soho, where he signed for me.
“Her technique and command over the instrument are breathe-taking, her playing being fully devoted to the music”, is how the German newspaper Nene Westfalische described Korean violist Hyeyoon Park.
Born in Seoul in 1992, she began to play at the age of four and made her orchestral debut five years later in her hometown with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. During her teens Hyeyoon emerged as one of the most promising violinists of her generation and an artist of outstanding style and virtuosity, winning the prestigious London Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award in 2011 and First Prize and two special prizes at the 58th ARD International Music Competition in Munich as a 17 year-old, the youngest person in the history of the competition.
Hyeyoon signed my portrait sketch after a recital at London’s Wigmore Hall a couple of weeks ago.
Robbie Williams reunited with his former TAKE THAT band mates, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald for a rare, one-off performance on the opening night of Tim Firth’s jukebox musical THE BAND, which features their songs, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 4 December last year. The evening was a Charity Gala where they raised £500,000 for Sir Elton John’s AIDS Foundation Christmas appeal.
TAKE THAT had 12 singles and eight albums reach number one in the UK, winning eight Brit Awards. The musical tells the story of five women who were best friends as teenagers and huge fans of THE BAND. Twenty-five years later four of them reunite to see their favourite group perform. After its world premiere in Manchester in 2017 and a UK and Ireland tour the musical took up residency in London’s West End over the festive season.
Robbie left the band in 1995 to launch his hugely successful solo career, becoming the UK’s best selling solo artist. All but one of his 11 albums reached number one in the UK, where he was inducted into the Hall of Fame after being voted the ‘greatest artist of the 1990’s.’ He has received a record 18 Brit Awards. Robbie briefly returned to the band in 2010 for a stadium tour. Their subsequent album ‘Progress’ became the second fastest-selling album in UK chart history and the fastest-selling record of the century at the time.
Robbie signed my drawing for me at the Theatre Royal’s stage door after they had rehearsed late in the afternoon. He popped out for a ciggy and a siggy.
Hans Zimmer was listed as one of the Top 100 Living Geniuses by the Telegraph in 2007. Since 1980 the 61-year-old German composer has created the scores for over 150 films, including RAIN MAN, GLADIATOR, INCEPTION, the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series and THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy, earning 11 Academy Award nominations and winning for Original Score for THE LION KING in 1995. He has also collected four Grammys, three Classical Brit Awards and two Golden Globes. He has been nominated for another Grammy at this Sunday’s ceremony for his BLADE RUNNER 2049 score.
“My father died when I was just a child and I escaped somehow into my music and music has been my best friend,” he said in an interview with the German radio station ZDF in 2006. His work is notable for integrating electronic music sounds with traditional orchestral arrangements. Hans is head of film music at the Dreamworks Studios and collaborates extensively with other composers through his own company and studio based in Santa Monica, California. In November 2017 a mainbelt asteroid discovered by Polish astronomers Michal Kusiak and Michal Zolnowski was named ‘Hanszimmer’.
Hans signed for me at the BFI London Film Festival’s Gala Screening of WIDOWS at the Cineworld’s Empire Cinema in Leicester Square last October.
Widely considered one of this century’s greatest violists, in fact one of the greatest from any century, Julia Fischer returned to London this week to perform with ‘the crowning glory of Russian culture’, the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall.
Not content with being a world-class violinist, Julia is also an outstanding concert pianist.
Born in Germany to a very musical family, she began playing the violin at the age of three and gained international recognition at a young age, winning a number of prestigious competitions including the 1995 International Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition and the 8th Eurovision Competition for Young Instrumentalists the following year. Julia played a Stradivarius, the 1716 Booth, on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation for four years before changing to her current instrument, a 1742 Guadaguini. She also has a violin Philipp Augustin 2011 and usually uses a Benoit Rolland bow.
In 2018 she was listed by Classic FM as one of the twenty-five greatest violists of all time. When not performing she teaches in her hometown at the Munich University of Music and Performing Arts. In his review for the Evening Standard, Nick Kimberley wrote, “… a very mobile player, (Fischer) almost dancing round the stage-captured a free wheeling, improvisatory quality: in the third movement, the interplay between her and the wind players was delightfully fresh and frisky. Amazingly enough Fischer returned after the interval, not as a soloist, but as one of the galley slaves in the string section. Few superstars are willing to do that… and seemed to enjoy it.”
Julia signed and returned my drawing for me after I left it at the Artists Entrance.