After a sell-out run at the National’s Dorfman Theatre, David Eidridge’s masterful new play BEGINNING transferred to Ambassador’s Theatre just off Charing Cross Road in central London until 24 March.
‘The (anti) romance for the 21st Century,’ is a two-hander with Justine Mitchell as Laura and Sam Troughton as Danny, sozzled loners, desperately seeking common ground and a connection. It’s the early hours of the morning, and Danny is the last straggler at Laura’s party. The flat’s a mess and so are they. In his four-star review for the Guardian, Michael Billington said, “Both actors peel away the protective layers in a play that leaves you caring deeply about its characters and which adds unusual poignancy to the dating game.”
Justine and Sam signed my drawing at the stage door, between Saturday shows.
Appropriately, as the Chinese New Year is ushered in, my drawing of popular TV Chef Ken Hom arrived back, signed with a complimentary card attached wishing me New Years greetings. Widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest authorities on Oriental cooking, Ken is a regular on our TV screens.
Born in Tucson to Chinese parents he grew up in Chicago. He didn’t find the American food agreeable so his mother would send him off to school with a flask of hot rice and stir-fried vegetables.
At the age of 11 he started working in his uncle’s restaurant and ran cooking lessons in his native Chinese cuisine to pay for his university fees when he moved to California, eventually swaping his history studies to follow his heart at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Ken’s British connection came in 1982, when he was chosen, after a two-year global search for the BBC’s new Chinese cooking series.
Numerous programmes, books and accolades have followed since. He opened MEE at the Belmont Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, the city’s first luxury pan-Asian restaurant, winning a Michelin star in it’s first year. Ken divides his time as a global culinary citizen between residences in France and Thailand, but is a frequent visitor to the UK where he has a number of business interests including his wok empire.
I sent this drawing to his Hampshire headquarters, managing to coincide with one of visits.
“In Swedish soprano Malin Bystrom, we come as near to perfection as we ever will: a petulant, imperious teenager becoming drugged with lust,” wrote Michael Church in his five-star Independent review for the third revival of David McVicar’s gory and provocative production of Richard Strauss’s SALOME at the Royal Opera House. “Her voice rides easily over the hundred-piece orchestra and the porcelain purity of her tone contrasts ever more starkly with her blood-bolstered presence. Wonderful.”
After six appearances since her Covent Garden debut in 2002, Malin returned for the ROH’s 2017/1018 Autumn season, playing Helene in LES VEPRES SICILIENNES in November and the biblical femme fatale SALOME in January.
Malin signed my sketch for me after I left it at the stage door.
Uma Thurman made her Broadway stage debut late last year in Beau Willimon’s Trump-inspired THE PARISIAN WOMAN at New York’s Hudson Theatre. Known for creating the original Netflix series HOUSE OF CARDS, Beau’s fifth play, a dark humoured drama, is set in Washington DC, where powerful friends are the only kind worth knowing, especially after the 2016 election.
Uma plays Chloe, an ambitious socialite with charm and wit, coming to terms with an unknown future, where truth isn’t obvious and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
I remembered speaking to Uma at the Royal Opera House stage door during the BAFTAs a few years ago when she snuck out for a nicotine break. She was very chatty, signing siggys between ciggys, so I figured she would be nice enough to sign a sketch for me if I sent it to her at the Hudson, and, thankfully I figured right.
One of the big success stories of British Theatre is the creation of the Mischief Theatre Company and their first hit production THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG. Written by LAMDA graduates Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, it follows the exploits of members of the fictitious Conley Polytechnic Drama Society and their disastrous attempt to put on a 1920’s murder mystery. The writers were joined in the original cast by Charlie Russell, David Hearn, Greg Tannahill, Nancy Wallinger and Rob Falconer, who used to work at my local pub and said he was working on an interesting theatre project.
From modest beginnings above one of London’s oldest taverns at the sixty-seater Old Red Lion Theatre in 2012, it moved to the Trafalgar Studios a year later then to the Duchess in September in 2014, where it is currently in residence and booking to later this year. It won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. Last year it transferred to the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway, where it won the Tony Award for Best Scenic Design. It has now gone global, with productions in over 20 countries, including a UK tour.
Last month the two Henrys, Jonathan, Charlie and David returned to the West End, as part of the ensemble for the improv MISCHIEF MOVIE NIGHTS at London’s Arts Theatre, where I met them to sign this drawing for me.
With the surname Kitchin, you could hardly end up working as a mechanic in a garage. And so it was, young Scottish chef Tom Kitchin stayed true to his name and made the kitchen his working domain, leaving his native Edinburgh to work in the top Michelin-starred restaurants in London, Paris and Monte Carlo.
On his culinary journey he meet his wife Michaela, who worked for the Savoy Group and together they established their own restaurant back in Tom’s hometown, on the stylish Leith waterfront in 2006. But what to call it… no brainier… The Kitchin.
Tom’s cooking style combines French techniques with seasonal Scottish ingredients, a philosophy he calls ‘from nature to the plate’ – the title of his 2010 book. After only six months in business and at the age of 29, he became the youngest recipient to be awarded a Michelin star. Tom and Michaela have since opened two more restaurants in Edinburgh, the Castle Terrace and Scran & Scallie.
I have been a fan for some time, and always enjoy his appearances on Saturday Kitchen, among other TV shows. I sent this sketch to the Kitchin for him to sign, which he did, adding a stylish rendering of his own.
My lifelong interest in TV cooking shows began way back in the sixties when television was, like me, in its infancy in New Zealand. The very first celebrity chef was Graham Kerr, who had moved to the Antipodes from London to take up a role as the chief catering adviser for the Royal NZ Airforce. When ‘the box’ was introduced in 1960, he first appeared on a programme called EGGS WITH FLIGHT LIEUTENANT KERR before it evolved into the popular ENTERTAINING WITH KERR, which I watched religiously, before attempting to channel Graham and his culinary creations in the family kitchen, much to my mother’s alarm, who advised me to draw instead.
Graham later moved to Australia, then Canada, where he became a global superstar with the show THE GALLOPING GOURMET, one of the most viewed cooking programmes on the planet, earning two Emmy nominations. The term ‘Galloping Gourmet’ originated from a book, co-authored with wine expert Len Evans in 1967, when they completed a 35-day trek around the world’s finest restaurants.
When I experienced another burst of appetite for celebrity chefs – in a sketching sense, not cannibalistic – earlier this year, resulting in a new batch of renderings being produced of my favourite cooking people, I just had to include Graham. Now, aged 84, he has retired and living in Washington State on America’s Pacific Northwest. I sent him this sketch, which he immediately signed and returned, much to my delight.
Irish playwright and director Conor McPherson’s new Dust Bowl drama GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY, incorporating the music of Bob Dylan, opened last Summer with a sell-out run at The Old Vic, before transferring to the Noel Coward Theatre in London’s West End. Claire Allfree, in The Telegraph headlined her review with “A magical fusion of Dylan and the Depression.”
Conor beautifully weaves the iconic songs (21 of them) of Bob Dylan into his show of hope, heartbreak and soul. It is set in a struggling guesthouse in Dylan’s hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, during the Great Depression, where poverty is rife amongst the gathering of the dispossessed and the most affected citizens… a place Ben Brantley in the New York Times describes as “a corner of the United States where it is all too easy to lose your way.”
The production and the cast has received unanimous critical acclaim, with Scottish BAFTA-winning actress Shirley Henderson portrayal of Elizabeth Laine, the wife of the inn-keeper Nick ( Ciaran Hinds) gaining special mention. In the grip of dementia and nearly feral, Shirley’s performance is nothing short of mesmerising.
“Henderson delivers a smoking version of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’,” wrote Natasha Tripney in TheStage. I met Shirley at the stage door last weekend after a matinee, where she signed my montage sketch for me.
“James Norton and Imogen Poots are brilliant,” wrote Andrzej Lukowski, the theatre editor for Time Out in his review of Amy Herzog’s 2011 play BELLEVILLE, which has just completed its run at London’s Donmar Warehouse. James and Imogen play uprooted American newlyweds Zack and Abby living in Belleville, the Bohemian district of Paris in a romantic dream gone sour. The Independent’s PaulTaylor agreed, “The acting’s terrific.”
I managed to catch up with James and Imogen at the Warehouse, where they signed my sketch.
Sir Nicholas Hytner insists he is a theatre director who ‘does other stuff’. He does the other stuff with equal aplomb, directing some of my favourite films, THE HISTORY BOYS, THE CRUCIBLE and THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE. His film career was born out of his working relationship with playwright Alan Bennett, nurtured at the National Theatre, after Sir Nick became Artistic Director, taking over from Trevor Nunn in April 2003.
In 1989, when Cameron MacIntosh offered him MISS SAIGON. “It just felt like a huge lark… it was gigantic at the time so I threw everything I knew at it-big, honest, brash, kind of crazy. I had no idea it would take off.” It became a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic. He was on a percentage, so at the age of 34 he never had to worry about money again and “only needed to do what I wanted to do.” During his tenure the National produced some of London’s most successful productions, including WAR HORSE, ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS and THE HISTORY BOYS. He was knighted in 2010.
He left the National in 2015 along with Nick Starr, the former Executive Director. They set up London’s newest stage venue, The Bridge Theatre – a 900-seat auditorium overlooking the Thames near Tower Bridge, where I left this drawing for him to sign, which he did and returned last week.