The ‘colossus’ of British theatre, theatre, opera and film director Sir Peter Hall died this month. In their obituary, The Times wrote that he was “the most important figure in British theatre for half a century.”
Sir Peter ran the National theatre from 1973-1988 and founded the Royal Shakespearian Company in 1960. The National Theatre said that Sir Peter’s “influence on the artistic life of Britain in the 20th Century was unprecedented.
I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Peter on a few occasions at theatre press nights before he retired from public life in 2011. He was always a delight. In March 2010 he attended the opening night of PRIVATE LIVES at London’s Vaudeville Theatre, starring Kim Cattrall. After the show he went backstage and signed for me leaving via the stage door.
Celebrated British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon spotted Leanne Cope in the 2014 Royal Ballet Company’s production of SWAN LAKE and cast her as Lise Dassin, the lead in AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. It was a role she originated in the Broadway production, which has transferred to London’s West End and is currently running at the Dominion Theatre. After graduating in 2003 from the Royal Ballet School,Leanne progressed to First Artist six years later. Leanne kindly signed a drawing I did of her as Lise earlier in the year and did the same to this one of her from her Royal Ballet days last week.
Welsh actress Lisa Palfrey was appearing as Big Mama in the Young Vic’s West End production of Tennessee William’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the Apollo Theatre… until an emergency appendectomy cut short her performance last month. Initially understudy Kate Britain covered until Kiwi actress Kerry Fox stepped into the role until Lisa recovered. She signed this sketch for me a week before the unscheduled appendix removal.
English actor and singer Joe Millson was attracted back to the London stage by the script of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s APOLOGIA, which is currently running at the Trafalgar Studios until November. Joe plays both sons; the calm but troubled Simon and the thick-skinned banker Peter, who attend their mother’s (Stockard Channing) birthday, a matriarchal figure and famous art historian who has just published her memoirs neglecting to mention her them.
It was originally drafted for two actors but it was director, Jamie Lloyd’s innovation to use one. “It’s very light, easy-to-watch stuff, but leaves you with a punch in the gut,” said Joe in a recent interview. Theatre critic, Neil Dowden, writing his review in Exeunt wrote, “Joseph Millson excels in contrasting Peter’s self-confident directness with Simon’s subdued, more obliquely accusing manner.” I did suggest to Joe, while he was signing my sketch at the stage door, that they should be paying him double for the dual roles, an idea that appealed.
Hayley Squires performance as single mum Katie in Ken Loach’s multi-award winning film I, DANIEL BLAKE catapulted her into the international spotlight, earning a BAFTA nomination and winning a number of accolades including the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her latest role is the complete opposite, making her West End debut in the Young Vic production of Tennessee William’s steamy southern family drama CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF opposite Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell at the Apollo Theatre. Hayley plays Mae, the scheming sister-in -law which The Times critic Ann Treneman called a “stand-out performance.” She signed my drawing a month ago at the stage door.
DOCTOR WHO’s Freema Agyeman made her West End debut last month in the revival of Alexei Kaye Campbell’s family drama APOLOGIA at the Trafalgar Studios. Known as Martha Jones,the Time Lord’s companion and Alesha Phillips in LAW & ORDER:UK, Freema plays Claire, the unrepentant girlfriend. Ironically she turned down a chance to debut on stage at the Donmar sixteen years ago for a role in the soap CROSSROADS, now appears for the first time on the London boards as a spirited soap star. She signed this sketch I drew at the stage door after a Saturday evening performance a few weeks ago.
Multi-award winning actress, writer and comedian Miranda Hart made her West End and musical debut in Nikolai Foster’s stylish revival of the family musical ANNIE at the Piccadilly Theatre in June this year.
Playing the hilariously spiteful, gin-soaked NYC orphanage manageress Miss Agatha Hannigan, Miranda continues in the role until the end of this week.
She has garnered great reviews with the Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish writing, “Half gorgon, half goofball, all-round pleasure, she daftly-deftly combines menace with physical comedy lurching into view through scary-tall dormitory doors, sending her grubby young charges screaming as if from a fire-breathing dragon.”
Miranda kindly signed and returned my Miss H sketch for me after I left it at the theatre.
After a sell-out run at the Almeida Theatre, Richard Icke’s acclaimed adaption of Shakespeare’s HAMLET transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End in June with BAFTA and double Olivier-winner Andrew Scott as the Danish Prince.
In her five-star Guardian review, Kate Kellaway called the production “an all-consuming marvel. Andrew Scott’s prince proves a brilliant communicator.”
Andrew signed my drawing for me after I left it at the stage door.
Oscar winner F Murray Abraham returned to the London stage after a 21 year absence in THE MENTOR at the Vaudeville Theatre in June. Written by the German novelist Daniel Kehlmann and translated by Christopher Hampton, F Murray plays a tetchy older author clashing with a younger dramatist in a compelling and humorous study of creative anxiety.
As usual F Murray was generous with his time at the stage door and signed this drawing for me, before the play finished its run last week.
After twenty-two years with the Royal Ballet, principal dancer Zenaida Yanowsky retired last month. The 41 year-old French-born Spanish ballerina’s last performance was in Australia as Paulina in THE WINTER’S TALE at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre as part of the Royal Ballet’s summer season in Brisbane. She joined the Covent Garden company in 1994 as a First Artist and was promoted to Principal in 2001, performing the leading roles in the classical and contemporary repertory. In 2005 Zenaida was voted Dancer of the Year by the readers of the magazine ‘Dance Europe’. I left this sketch for Zenaida to sign at the Royal Opera House stage door, which she kindly did.