Drawing: Nigel Slater

Autographed drawing of Chef Nigel Slater

I finally got to meet another culinary hero of mine last week. Nigel Slater was at The Other Palace theatre for the West End premiere of the sage adaption of TOAST, the comedy-drama, based on his best-selling , award-winning autobiography ‘Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger.’ The extraordinary story of a childhood revealed through food was also made into a successful film, featuring Helena Bonham Carter in 2010.

One of Britain’s foremost gastronomic writers, Nigel is famous for his stripped-back recipes, which show how easy it is to make delicious meals from just a few high-quality ingredients. The play was commissioned in 2018 by The Lowry in Manchester, where it had a sell-out run at the Week 53 Festival. Written by Henry Filoux-Bennett, the production moved to the Edinburgh Fringe, embarking on a UK National tour, before its London transfer.

I met Nigel at the theatre, where he very kindly signed my sketch, before the press night performance. I’ve always admired Nigel’s handwriting, which features in many of his TV shows, so was able to satisfy both culinary and calligraphic obsessions. I later discovered, not only was it his birthday, (one day before mine) but we are the same age, so a belated many happy returns.

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The 2019 Laurence Olivier Awards – a selection of six winners

The 2019 Laurence Olivier Awards, recognising excellence in London theatre was held last Sunday at the Royal Albert Hall. Here’s a 4B pencil tribute to a selection of six winners who all signed their respective sketches over the past year.

Sharon D. Clarke, Best Actress in a Musical for her title role in CAROLINE, OR CHANGE at the Playhouse Theatre, signed in person at the theatre last December.

Autographed drawing of Sharon D Clarke in Caroline, Or Change at the Playhouse Theatre on London's West End

Patti LuPone, Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical for her portrayal of Joanne in Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY at the Gielgud Theatre, signed at the stage door in October last year.

Autographed drawing of actress Patti LuPone

Patsy Ferran, Best Actress for SUMMER AND SMOKE, signed at the Duke of York’s Theatre on 18 December 2018, following a West End transfer after a sold-out run at the Almeida Theatre.

Autographed drawing of Patsy Ferran and Matthew Needham in Summer and Smoke at the Duke of York's Theatre on London's West End

Kyle Soller, Best Actor for his role as Eric Glass in the Young Vic’s two-part epic, THE INHERITANCE at the Noel Coward Theatre, signed at the stage door in January this year.

Autographed drawing of Kyle SOller and Andrew Burnap in The Inheritance at the Noel Coward Theatre on London's West End

Kobna Holbrook-Smith, Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Ike Turner, in TINA,THE MUSICAL, signed at the Aldwych Theatre’s stage door late last year.

Autographed drawing of Kobna Holdbrook-Smith in Tina The Musical at the Aldwych Theatre on London's West End

Chris Walley, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for playing the teenager Davey in THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE, also signed at the Noel Coward stage door last summer.

Autographed drawing of Chris Walley in The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Noel Coward Theatre on London's West End

Drawing: David Suchet, Brendan Coyle, Adrian Lukis and Sara Stewart in The Price

Autographed drawing of David Suchet, Brendan Coyle, Adrian Luke's and Sara Stewart in The Price at Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End

Arthur Miller’s final masterpiece, THE PRICE premiered on Broadway at the Morosco Theatre in the winter of 1968. The play about family dynamics, the price of furniture and the price of one’s decisions has had a number of revivals, including Jonathan Church’s ‘rich and powerful’ 50th anniversary production at the Theatre Royal Bath last summer, which transferred to the Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End this February with the same cast.

Two estranged brothers meet for the first time in sixteen years to sell the family furniture stored in a New York attic. Victor Franz (Brendan Coyle), a New York cop, nearing retirement and his brother Walter (Adrian Lukis), a successful surgeon learn the cost of dividing the family spoils. They are joined by Victor’s alcohol-dependent wife Esther (Sara Stewart) and a silver-tongued 89 year-old furniture dealer, Gregory Solomon (David Suchet) who is asked to access and bid for the family heirlooms. The Guardian’s Michael Billington summed up the critical response by simply saying it is a “superbly acted production.”

Special mention has been made of David’s tragicomic tour de force, with Dominic Maxwell writing in his review for the Times, that the show is “blessed by one truly great star turn. David Suchet has an almost indecent amount of fun as Gregory Solomon”.  Both David and Adrian have been nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Olivier Awards respectively, at this weekend’s ceremony.

Adrian and Sara signed my montage sketch for me in person at the stage door prior to Saturday’s matinee a couple of weeks ago, but I missed David and Brendan, so left it for them at the theatre. It was returned TTM (Through The Mail) as we say in the collecting business, graphed and dedicated.

Drawing: Gemma Barnett in A Hundred Words For Snow

Autographed drawing of Gemma Barnett in A Hundred Words For Snow at the Trafalgar Studios on London's West End

Tatty Hennessy’s ‘outrageously funny and deeply moving’ coming-of-age tale… with polar bears, A HUNDRED WORDS FOR SNOW has transferred to London’s West End with a flurry of excellent reviews and accolades after successful appearances at The Vaults and the Arcola Theatre last year.

Directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson, the one hour, one person play, which mixes polar exploration with teenage awkwardness will run in the Trafalgar Studio 2 until the end of the month. Oxford school of Drama graduate Gemma Barnett plays Rory – short for Aurora – a young woman determined to scatter her dad’s ashes at the North Pole. It was a trip they had planned before he suddenly died in an accident, one last expedition, which the Guardian’s Michael Billington called an “extraordinary story. “The play explores the difficulties and desires of growing up and searching the unknown in a melting world, covering the themes of climate change, feminism and self-discovery.”

As Tatty points out, it’s very relevant, given the UN’s latest stark and startling Climate Chang report. “How traumatic, isolating and overwhelming it must be to lose someone you love and to lose them at 15, to be grieving during puberty,” said Gemma in an interview for London Theatre Direct.

I caught up with Gemma last Saturday at the stage door after her matinee performance, described by James FitzGerald in his WhatsOnStage review as “impassioned and intoxicating,” where she signed my sketch.

Drawing: Isabella Rossellini

Autographed drawing of actress Isabella Rossellini

Her mother was the three-time Oscar winning Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman and her father the neo-realist master film director Roberto Rossellini. With that parentage and pedigree Isabella Fiorella Elettra Giovanni Rossellini was destined for a cinematic career… and more. She made her movie debut alongside her mother in Vincent Minnelli’s A MATTER OF TIME in 1976.

Isabella’s most memorable role was as lounge singer Dorothy Vallens in David Lynch’s cult classic BLUE VELVET, a role that won her the Best Female Lead Independent Spirit Award. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe, playing Anna Hauptmann in HBO’s TV film about the Lindbergh kidnapping CRIME OF THE CENTURY and an Emmy nomination for her portrayal as Prof. Marina Giannini in the medical drama CHICAGO HOPE.

Fluent in Italian, French and English, Isabella has had several parallel careers including modelling, where she was the face of the French cosmetics giant Lancôme for a long time and now at the age of 66 she is the company’s global brand ambassador. She has also been a journalist for Italian TV and has written and published three books.

Isabella is an avid dog lover and trains puppies for the blind. Last year she bought her one-woman (and her trained dog, Pan) show, LINK LINK to Queen Elizabeth Hall in London’s Southbank Centre. Described as more of a surreal theatrical lecture, exploring what distinguishes humans from animals with a comic twist, covering everything from animal intelligence to the sex lives of whales. She kindly signed my montage sketch at the stage door afterwards.

Drawing: Danny Dyer in The Dumb Waiter

Autographed drawing of Danny Dyer in The Dumb Waiter at the Harold Pinter Theatre on London's West End

A “propa nawty geezer” is how one interviewer described the parts English actor Danny Dyer is famed for, the  generic ‘hard man-with-a-heart’. He returned last month to the West End stage as a killer in Harold Pinter’s THE DUMB WAITER, which was part of the Pinter Seven double bill with A SLIGHT ACHE.

It concluded the PINTER AT THE PINTER season, Jamie Lloyd’s ambitious box-set approach to all of the Nobel Laureate’s 21 one-act plays over the past 21 weeks at the theatre named after him.

THE DUMB WAITER, written in 1957 is set in a basement of a Birmingham restaurant, where two cockney hit men, Gus and Ben are preparing to execute an unknown victim as a dumb waiter (a shelf on pulleys) descends from above with food requests. Danny played Ben alongside Martin Freeman as Gus.

Jamie said that Danny, who had a close friendship with the playwright was one of Harold’s favourite actors and considered him a protégé “There were no airs and graces about Harold,” said Danny, “I learned so much from him that set me up for the rest of my career.”  THE DUMB WAITER is Danny’s fourth Pinter play. He met Harold in 1999, who cast him as the waiter in CELEBRATION at London’s Almeida Theatre, which transferred to New York’s Lincoln Centre in 2001 as part of the Harold Pinter Season. He followed that with the role of Foster in NO MAN’S LAND at the National Theatre and in 2008 as Joey in THE HOMECOMING back at the Almeida.

Danny’s breakthrough came in 1997 in the cult film HUMAN TRAFFIC as the mad raver Moff. He later said in a Guardian interview that it wasn’t much of a transition “That role was me. I was still living it then. It was the only audition where the first question was “Do you take drugs?” I said, “Yes, I love drugs.” They said, ‘Perfect.”  Since 2013 he has played The Queen Victoria pub’s landlord Mick Carter in the BBC TV soap EASTENDERS, winning three National Television Awards.

I left this sketch of Danny as Ben at the stage door on the final day of the PINTER AT THE PINTER season and it came back signed and dedicated with a nice inscription.

Drawing: Daniel Kaluuya

Autographed drawing of actor Daniel Kaluuya

Daniel Kaluuya’s status as a ‘rising star’ was bolstered last year when he received the British Academy’s Rising Star Award. Born in London to Ugandan parents, Daniel was raised on a council estate. He wrote his first play at the age of nine and started his acting career in improvisational theatre. He featured as part of the original cast of the British teen comedy drama TV series SKINS, co-writing some episodes.

His entry into mainstream theatre drew plenty of attention, playing the lead role in the Royal Court’s 2010 production of SUCKER PUNCH by Roy Williams. The play and cast received rave reviews with Daniel winning both the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards for his performance as Leon, a young boxer.

Daniel’s International screen breakthrough was his role as photographer Chris Washington in the horror GET OUT in 2017, for which he received Academy Award, BAFTA, SAG, Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe Award nominations. He followed that with Marvel Studio’s blockbuster BLACK PANTHER, playing chief of the Border Tribe, W’Kabi.
Daniel signed for me at the Gala Screening of Steve McQueen’s heist film WIDOWS, which opened last years BFI Londo Film Festival at Cineworld’s Empire Cinema in Leicester Square.

Drawing: Chita Rivera

Autographed drawing of Chita Rivera

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.

Drawing: Ethan Hawke

Autographed drawing of actor Ethan Hawke

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.

Drawing: Arabella Neale and Emily Plumtree in The Mousetrap

Autographed drawing of Arabella Neale in The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre on London's West EndAutographed drawing of Emily Plumbtree in The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre on London's West End

Continuing my recent ritual of rendering the roles of Miss Casewell, the proprietor of Monkswell Manor and the strange, aloof Molly Ralston after each cast change in Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery THE MOUSETRAP at St Martin’s Theatre in London, I caught up with Arabella Neale and Emily Plumtree just before Christmas, who both kindly signed their respective sketches. Described as the ‘best-selling novelist of all time’, Dame Agatha initially wrote the play for radio in the late 1940’s, calling it THREE BLIND MICE. With the title changed, THE MOUSETRAP opened in the West End in 1952 and now, in its 67th year, is the longest initial run of any play in the history of modern theatre, passing 27,500 performances in September last year.

Amongst Arabella’s high profile stage roles, are Madame Thernardier in LES MISERABLES, Beatrice in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and the Duchess in THE DUCHESS OF MALFI. She recently featured in the award-winning BBC television mini-series A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL opposite Hugh Grant.

ENDEAVOUR, HOLYOAKS and DOCTORS are among Emily’s list of small-screen credits. Her theatre work includes the part of Nerissa in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, which she reprised at the Almeida Theatre in London, both directed by Rupert Goold. She was nominated for an Off West End Theatre Award for her performance as Anita in MY GIRL 2.