One of the best films I have seen recently is Saul Dibb’s war drama JOURNEY’S END, based on R.C.Sherriff’s 1928 play. Released in 2017, it is the stage plays fifth film adaption. It follows a group of British soldiers awaiting their fate in an Aisne dugout under the leadership of a young officer Captain Stanhope during the Spring Offensive, a series of German attacks along the Western Front near the end of WWI.
Sam Claflin plays the boozy, brooding, self-loathing, belligerent Stanhope. Peter Bradshaw, in his four-star Guardian review said it is “expertly cast and really well acted:forthwright,powerful and heartfelt.” Sam was nominated for the 2018 Evening Standard Best Actor Award Film for his performance. He came to International prominence as Philip Swift in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES in 2011, followed by his role as Finnick Odair in THE HUNGER GAME film series (2013-2015). This year he joined the cast of the TV series PEAKY BLINDERS as Oswald Mosley.
Sam signed my sketch at the screening of his latest film, THE NIGHTINGALE before his Q&A at the Curzon Mayfair in London last week.
British actor Matt Smith made his name on the stage before becoming the youngest and eleventh incarnation of the Doctor (2010-2014) in the long-running BBC television series DOCTOR WHO, winning two National TV Awards and a BAFTA nomination. He has returned to the London boards in the revival of LUNGS alongside his THE CROWN co-star Claire Foy at the Old Vic. They play a nameless couple wrestling with the planet’s biggest dilemmas. While shopping in Ikea, he mentions the idea of having a baby which unleashes an absurd hour of verbal fireworks.
He made his West End debut playing Guy in the world premiere of the stage adaption of the dark comedy-drama SWIMMING WITH SHARKS at the Vaudeville Theatre in October 2007 opposite Christian Slater. A year later he won acclaim and an Evening Standard Award for his performance as Henry, an aspiring artist who left school to care for his mother in Polly Stenham’s THAT FACE at the Royal Court Theatre, before a West End transfer. The cast were nominated for an Olivier Award.
After leaving DOCTOR WHO, Matt returned to the stage in another world premiere. He played the sociopathic investment banker Patrick Bateman who embarks on a deadly journey as a Manhattan serial killer in Rupert Goold’s musical adaption of the 2000 film AMERICAN PSYCHO in the winter of 2013. The season sold out and was extended.
Matt kindly signed my drawing of him as Patrick Bateman, which I had been carrying around in my folder for the past six years, after a LUNGS rehearsal session at the Old Vic stage door.
Claire Foy has returned to the London stage for the first time after her acclaimed portrayal of Lady Macbeth opposite James McAvoy’s MACBETH at the Trafalgar Studios in 2013. She reunites with her THE CROWN on-screen husband Matt Smith in Matthew Warchus’s revival of Duncan MacMillian’s hilarious two-hander LUNGS at the Old Vic for a short run, which ends this Saturday. They play an unnamed couple freaking out over what to do with their lives in the face of imminent climate catastrophe.
After being nominated for a BAFTA for her performance as the ill-fated queen Anne Boleyn in the BBC television serial WOLF HALL (2015), Claire received further international recognition for her role as the young Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of Peter Morgan’s Netflix series THE CROWN opposite Matt, who played her consort, Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, winning a Golden Globe, an Emmy and two SAG Awards. She was also BAFTA nominated as she was for her performance as Neil Armstrong’s wife Janet in Damien Chazelle’s 2018 biopic FIRST MAN.
In his TimeOut review, Andrzej Lukowski wrote, “Claire Foy and Matt Smith are magnetic in this big stage outing.”
Claire kindly signed this sketch for me during rehearsals at the Old Vic.
Annette Bening has received four Academy Award nominations. Her first was for her supporting role as Myra Langtry in the new-noir crime drama THE GRIFTERS (1990). She also received a BAFTA nomination. Nine years later, she appeared as Carolyn Burnham in the Best Picture winner, AMERICAN BEAUTY, earning her second nom and first for Best Actress. She did win two SAG awards-one as Best Actress and the other as a member of the cast and collected the Best Actress BAFTA. Her third Oscar nomination was for her portrayal as the popular, but disillusioned theatre actress Julia Lambert in BEING JULIA (2004), winning a Golden Globe. Her last Academy recognition was for the 2010 comedy drama about a same-sex couple raising two teenagers, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. Once again she won a Globe.
Many Marvel fans will know her as Supreme Intelligence and Mar-vell/Wendy Lawson in the CAPTAIN MARVEL films and was a guest at this years BFI London Film Festival, attending the Gala screening of her latest movie about the CIA’s post 9/11 detention and interrogation Programme, THE REPORT, in which she plays Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Annette has also been nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Jean Harris in the 2005 TV movie MRS HARRIS. She began her acting career on the stage and earlier this year returned to Broadway after a 32 year absence as Kate Keller in Arthur Miller’s ALL MY SONS, receiving a Tony Award nomination, to go with the her first in 1987, as photographer Holly Dancer in COASTAL DISTURBANCES.
Annette kindly signed my portrait montage I sent to the American Airlines Theatre in New York, during the ALL MY SONS run in May this year.
French playwrighting phenomenon Florian Zeller’s frightening tale of teen depression, THE SON made its UK debut at London’s Kiln Theatre in February with a sold-out run before transferring to the Duke of York’s in the West End for a ten-week season. Directed by Michael Longhurst and translated by Christopher Hampton this “immaculate production” (The Guardian’s Michael Billington) completes the French writer’s trilogy of plays; THE FATHER, focused on aged dementia and THE MOTHER on middle-aged psychosis.
THE SON is “the most powerful of all,” according to Ann Treneman in her five-star review in The Times, “superbly acted with a rhythm that keeps you on the edge of your seat.”
After skipping school and self-harming, 17 year-old Nicolas (Laurie Kynaston) moves out of his mother (Amanda Abbington) Anne’s house to live with his father Pierre (John Light) and Pierre’s lover Sofia (Amaka Okafor) and their new baby. In his Evening Standard review, Nick Curtis called the play an “unnerving and beautifully sensitive drama… a lacerating examination of the effect of a son’s mental illness has on his divorced parents.”
The four cast members signed my drawing at the theatre a few weeks ago as they arrived for a Saturday matinee.
Irish-born tenor and actor Colm Wilkinson was voted by a Rolling Stone readers’ poll as one of the five greatest singers ever. He originated the lead role of Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLES for both the West End and Broadway productions for which he received both an Olivier and Tony Award nomination and the title role for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA for Andrew Lloyd Webber at the Sydmonton Festival and the Canadian production. He also represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest, placing fifth singing “Born to Sing” in 1978.
After collaborating with Andrew in the Dublin production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, playing the role of Judas Iscariot in 1972, they joined forces again in 1985 at the Sydmonton workshop in a deconsecrated 16th century chapel on the grounds of Lord Lloyd Webber’s country estate in Hampshire, where he would perform new works for a private audiences.
Colm originated the title role for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and was offered it for the West End debut, but choose to play Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLES instead, opening initially at the Barbican Centre in October 1985, before transferring to the Palace Theatre. He reprised the role for the Broadway premiere at the Broadway Theatre in 1987. Two years later he and his family relocated to Toronto for the Phantom role in the original Canadian production, which he would play for four and a half years. He did return to play Jean Valjean at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Toronto in 1998-99.
He also reprised the role for the 10th Anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1995 and was a special guest at the 25th Anniversary at London’s 02 Arena in 2010. A year later he was part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Royal Albert Hall alongside a number of former global Phantoms. In the 2012 film version of LES MISERABLES, Colm played the Bishop of Digne, winning the National Board of Review Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination as part of the ensemble cast.
While Colm and his family predominately live in Canada (he became a Canadian citizen in 2000), he does have a house back in Ireland and I was fortunate to get my sketch to him on a recent return home, which he kindly dedicated, signed and returned to me.
While appearing in the most successful film of all time, Marvel’s AVENGERS:ENDGAME, reprising the role of Agent Peggy Carter, which she played in 2011 in the superhero film CAPTAIN AMERICA:THE FIRST AVENGER, Hayley Atwell appeared in three productions on the London stage.
The first, Sarah Burgess’s cut-throat comedy DRY POWDER at the Hampstead Theatre ran in the early Spring of 2018. Haley played the ‘acid-tongued, empathy-free Jenny alongside Tom Riley’s Seth as partners in a New York private equity firm reeling from a PR disaster caused by their boss. For the uninitiated ‘dry powder’ means the remaining capital in a private equity fund… if that helps. In his Financial Times review Ian Shuttleworth called Haley “the sharpest knife in the box.”
Later in the year she and Jack Lowden alternated lead roles in Josie Rourke‘s reimagined production of Shakespeare’s MEASURE FOR MEASURE, before her portrayal as the strident Rebecca West in Henrik Ibsen’s ROSERSHOLM at the Duke of York’s in the summer.
She kindly signed my DRY POWDER sketch at the Duke of York’s during the ROSERSHOLM run.
Kenneth Lonergan’s tale of astronomy and midlife misery THE STARRY MESSENGER completed its British premiere at Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End over the summer. It featured Broadway royalty and double Tony winner Matthew Broderick and Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Elizabeth McGovern.
Kenneth, who won the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award for his 2016 film MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, wrote the play specifically for Matthew, a long-time friend, who played the lead role ten years ago in the original off-Broadway production. In his West End debut he reprised his role as Mark Williams, a disgruntled astronomer who teaches the subject at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, where his life is spiralling out of control and his marriage is on the rocks.
Elizabeth played his anxious wife Anne. In his Independent Review, Paul Taylor wrote, “The actors play characters that range from laugh-out-loud funny to twisty, wrong-footed ambivalence.”
Both Matthew and Elizabeth kindly signed my sketch based on early publicity images during rehearsals in early May
American film director, screenwriter and playwright Kenneth Lonergan was in London recently, visiting Wyndham’s theatre where his play THE STARRY MESSENGER opened last month with Matthew Broderick and Elizabeth McGovern. The original 2009 off-Broadway production also featured Matthew and Kenneth’s wife, J.Smith-Cameron.
Kenneth’s playwriting prowess came to prominence in 1996 with THIS IS OUR YOUTH, followed by THE WAVERLY GALLERY three years later, earning him a Pulitzer Prize nomination and LOBBY HERO in 2002. All three plays collected Tony Award nominations for their respective revivals.
Kenneth’s most notable film work is YOU CAN COUNT ON ME (2000) and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016), both written and directed by him and both included Matthew in their cast. He received Academy Award Best Original Screenplay nominations the two films, collecting the Oscar for the later. He also won the BAFTA Award. David Fear, writing in Rolling Stone said that MANCHESTER proved Kenneth was “practically peerless in portraying loss as a living, breathing thing without resorting to the vocabulary of griefporn.” In 2002 he co-wrote Martin Scorsese’s GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002), once again receiving Academy recognition with an Original Screenplay nomination.
It was great to meet Kenneth at Wyndham’s Theatre, where he kindly signed my drawing.
Alex Kingston made her New York stage debut as Lady Macbeth opposite Kenneth Branagh in Shakespeare’s ‘Scottish play’ at the cavernous Park Avenue Armoury in June 2014. Co-directed by Rob Ashford and Sir Kenneth, this immersive production transferred from a limited run at the deconsecrated St Peter’s church as one of the highlights of the Manchester International Festival a year earlier. “Branagh is expertly matched by Alex Kingston”, wrote Dominic Cavendish in his Telegraph review. “Lady Macbeth – an electrifying, highly wrought Alex Kingston” was The Stage’s Michael Coveney’s summation of her acclaimed performance. The production was also screened in cinemas throughout the UK and internationally as part of the National Theatre Live programme.
Alex’s notable television work includes her title role in the miniseries THE FORTUNES AND MISFORTUNES OF MOLL FLANDERS in 1996, for which she received a BAFTA nomination and her portrayal of British surgeon Elizabeth Corday in the US medical drama ER for seven seasons between 1997-2004, returning for the final season in 2009 for two episodes, winning two SAG Awards as part of the ensemble cast. She played River Song, the Time Lord’s wife in DOCTOR WHO from 2008-2015.
Alex returned to the London stage earlier this year to play Sherri Rosen-Mason, the head of admissions at a sixth-form college in Joshua Harmon’s successful Broadway play ADMISSIONS at London’s Trafalgar Studios, where she signed my drawing.