The real-life experience of Northern Irish actress Laura Donnelly inspired the plot for Jez Butterworth’s latest hit play THE FERRYMAN, directed by Sam Mendes, which became the fastest selling production at the Royal Court earlier this year and has now transferred to the Gielgud in London’s West End.
The disappearance and murder of Laura’s uncle Eugene Simmons was the basis for this Troubles-era story. She was only a child, but remembers how he was taken away by the IRA, shot and his body dumped in a bog. Laura, best known to TV audiences for her roles in CASULTY, MERLIN and BEOWULF worked with Jez on his play THE RIVER at the Royal Court alongside Dominic West and Miranda Raison and on Broadway with Hugh Jackman.
Laura has attracted high critical praise for her portrayal of the victim’s widow, Caitlin Carney in THE FERRYMAN and signed my drawing of her in the role at the stage door last month.
British actor Anthony Head is probably best known globally as the stuffy Librarian Rupert Giles in TV’s BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, but his stage beginnings were much more elevated, debuting as Jesus in GODSPELL, which lead to his complete role-reversal at the opposite end of the character scale, the sweet transvestite himself, Frank N. Furter in THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at London’s Piccadilly Theatre in 1998. He later claimed his Frank was much more demonic than any of the Franks that went before.
I drew this montage of Anthony which includes him as Frank, Captain Hook in the PETER PAN at the Savoy Theatre in 2003 and his latest outing as Cabinet Minister Sir John Fletcher in Trevor Nunn’s critically acclaimed production of Rattigan’s LOVE AND IDLENESS, which has just completed its run at the Apollo after transferring from the Menier Chocolate Factory. He happily signed it for me at the stage door, after a Saturday matinee last month.
“Americans have different ways of saying things. They say ‘elevator’, we say ‘lift’ – they say ‘President’, we say ‘stupid, psychopathic git'”. One of comic legend’s Alexei Sayle’s infamous and now most apt one liners.
Voted 18th on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-up Comics in 2009, Alexei was a central figure in the alternative comedy movement of the 1980’s. His satirical style was based on cynicism and political awareness. The Emmy-winning British actor appeared in numerous TV shows but he was best known for his involvement in the iconic THE YOUNG ONES alongside Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer and Christopher Ryan. He played a many characters, but his main role was the apparently Russian landlord Jerzy Balowski.
Alexei was doing a few nights of ‘work in progress’ gigs at the Soho Theatre last week so I took the opportunity to meet him and get my drawing signed.
“Paddy Considine puts in a phenomenal performance as a father fighting against his past,” wrote Variety’s Matt Trueman in his review of Jez Butterworth’s latest masterpiece, THE FERRYMAN, directed by Sam Mendes, which transferred from the Royal Court to the Gielgud Theatre last month. It’s Paddy’s professional stage debut and the double BAFTA winner has earned unanimous critical praise. Michael Billington in his five-star Guardian review described his performance as “uncompromising brilliance”.
Paddy signed my drawing before last Saturday’s matinee.
Patti LuPone is musical theatre royalty on both sides of the Atlantic. Since making her professional debut 45 years ago she has played every major role and won every major West End and Broadway accolade, including the Olivier and two Tonys. She’s also collected a couple of Grammys for good measure.
Patti originated the title role of Eva Peron in the 1979 Broadway production of EVITA, picking up her first Tony. She played the part of Fantine in the original London cast of LES MISERABLES in 1985, the same year she appeared as Moll in THE CRADLE WILL ROCK, winning the Olivier for both roles. In 2008 she won her second Tony for portrayal of Rose in the Broadway revival of GYPSY.
Her latest appearance on the Great White Way is as Helena Rubinstein in WAR PAINT at the Nederlander Theatre, which garnered her seventh Tony nom. I sent her this montage sketch in March this year at the theatre and it came back dedicated and signed.
New Zealander Sam Wills and his alter – ego Tape Face found International notoriety last year, reaching the finals of America’s Got Talent, where he was the ‘most buzzed- about’ contestant. Described as a ‘modern day Chaplin’ Sam’s contemporary comedic mime revives silent film acting with a piece of tape over his mouth and the traditional stripped shirt, using facial expressions and body movements to captivate his audiences.
He began performing as an apprentice clown at the age of 13. Sam rarely gives interviews to continue the illusion of not speaking, although he was happy to chat in our antipodean accents with a fellow London-based Kiwi and sign my sketch before his matinee show at the Garrick Theatre where he is resident until 23 July.
One of Broadway’s genuine musical theatre superstars has finally made her West End debut. Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald made her long awaited London stage appearance last month, reprising her 2014 Broadway role as Billie Holiday in LADY DAY AT THE EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL at Wyndham’s Theatre.
“One legend playing another,” wrote Michael Billington in his Guardian review. Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph said her performance was “pouring divine nectar into your ears; here, beautifully modulated, is all the playfulness, mischief, yearning, sadness and stoicism to be found in those crackling records of long ago.”
Audra is the first person to win six Tonys for acting and the first person to win the award in all four acting categories. She has also collected Grammy and Emmy Awards. Her Tony winners are CAROUSAL (1994), MASTER CLASS (1996), RAGTIME (1998), A RAISIN IN THE SUN (2004), PORGY AND BESS (2012) and LADY DAY (2014).
It was an absolute pleasure to meet her at the stage door a couple of weeks ago as she arrived for the Saturday matinee. She loved the drawing and graciously signed it for me.
British actor Peter Davison came to prominence as Tristan Farnon in James Herriot’s ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL before becoming the fifth incarnation of the Doctor in DOCTOR WHO. He is coincidently the real life father in law of the tenth Doctor David Tennant.
Apart from his extensive TV work Peter has a distinguished stage career including two of his recent appearances, as Professor Callahan in LEGALLY BLONDE and Herbie in GYPSY, both at the Savoy Theatre in London. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for the latter. I dropped this sketch off at the theatre, having missed Peter a couple of times at the stage door and it eventually came back signed.
I always like drawing David Tennant- so expressive and he has always been kind enough to sign my scribblings over the years. His latest West End outing is the rakish titular lead in Patrick Marber’s revival of his own play DON JUAN IN SOHO at the Wyndham’s Theatre.
Last seen eleven years ago at the Donmar with Rhys Ifans, the play is a free-flowing update of Moliere’s 1665 comedy about a well- heeled hedonist. David is no stranger to seduction at Wyndham’s, having played the part of Benedick in Josie Rourke’s 2011 production of Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING alongside Catherine Tate.
David’s portrayal of the ‘Satan in a suit from Saville Row’ drew universal praise from the critics. The Guardian’s Michael Billington stating “It is Tennant’s performance that gives the play a disturbing ambivalence.” Eleanor Turney simply said “He’s an absolute bastard, but a charming one.”
Mark Ruffalo returned to the Broadway boards after an eleven-year absence in Arthur Miller’s rarely-revived THE PRICE at the American Airlines Theatre during the Spring. The three-time Oscar-nominated actor played career cop Victor Franz alongside Danny De Vito who was making his Broadway debut.
Mark was last seen on the Great White Way in Clifford Odet’s AWAKE AND SING! which also garnered him a Tony nomination. Known as ‘the actor’s activist’, Mark said in a recent interview that his acting teacher would tell him that ‘ art is activism… we should pay to go to church and the theatre should be free – that’s where we learn about ourselves.’ His character in THE PRICE is exiled to the Police departments version of Siberia- out by the airport because he doesn’t participate in the department’s politics. Mark has always been a good signer and very fan-friendly so I sent this sketch of him in the role to the theatre and it came signed.