I meet Tracy Ann Oberman one Saturday afternoon earlier this year when the sun sometimes shone, (well it wasn’t raining) and the air temperature was very pleasant, as was Tracy-Ann. She was on her way to the matinee of McQUEEN at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, where she was performing the role of Isabella Blow, who discovered the late visionary designer Alexander MCQueen, played by Stephen Wight.
I had drawn two sketches of the award-winning actress, playwright and writer – one was depicting her and Stephen in their respective roles, which Stephen had signed a few minutes earlier and the other was this portrait montage. The weather is important here because the Theatre Royal Haymarket’s uncovered stage door opens out onto a plush little cul-de-sac that can often create its own menacing climate, not condusive to autograph collecting. On this very pleasant day, however the weather was behaving and everything was fine with the world.
Tracy-Ann liked and signed both drawings, but I think this was her favourite. Then she slipped into the theatre to play the fascinating but ultimately tragic character who appears as a ghost. Such a kind spirit.
I really enjoy drawing dancers.The lines become more energetic and it certainly gives the 4B pencil are good workout. Ballet adds grace to the rendering. My latest sketch is Ukrainian prima ballerina Iana Salenko, Principal with the Staatsballet Berlin and Guest Artist with the Royal Ballet since performing the role of Kitiri in Carlo Acosta’s Don Quixote in 2013. She returns to Covent Garden this month as Juliet in Kenneth MacMillian’s groundbreaking production of Romeo and Juliet. First staged at the Royal Opera House in 1965, it has been at the heart of Royal Ballet’s repertory ever since. On opening night fifty years ago, Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn performed the title roles, receiving a rapturous reception with 43 curtain calls during 40 minutes of applause.
Iana will also join Principal Steven McRae this month in Tchaikovsky Pas de deus and The Nutcracker over the Christmas season. I was very pleased to receive my sketch, signed by Iana after I left it at the Opera House.
Martin Freeman made his Shakespearean debut on the London stage, transforming from a friendly Hobbit to a villainous sovereign in Jamie Lloyd’s vigorous, contemporary production of Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios last summer. ‘Ricardian’s’, as the medieval monarch’s modern-day followers are called, believe in the revisionists version of the last English King to fall in battle, which is in sharp contrast to the figure portrayed in the Bard’s version. Since supposedly finding his remains under a Council car park in Leicester and the pomp and pageantry surrounding the reburial, 529 and a half years after his demise, the stocks of the last Plantagenet ruler have risen appreciably. Archaeologists and academics have reconstructed the face of the skull and said he had much kinder features, therefore he couldn’t have been a tyrant. I kid you not.That’s of course if the car park bones are really Richards. Many believe they are not. So I guess casting Bilbo Baggins with his genial guise as the bloodthirsty antagonist ‘slashing his way through the family tree en route to the throne’ allowed for some options if required. A Tolkien gesture one could say. In the end, Martin played it as Wills intended (albeit shorter for modern attention spans) and played it well during the limited three month run.
I drew this sketch of Martin in the royal role, but never actually joined the hordes at the post-performance rituals. It stayed, along with others in my ‘pending’ folder, ready to be activated and penned when future opportunities warranted. One such moment came a few months ago as he left the Donmar Warehouse as an audience member and he stopped to sign for a small horde. This is when I realised I should have revised my filing system in the said pending folder to allow me to find the necessary item within the restricted timeframe. I could have got him to sign Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Robert De Niro, or even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sketches though. It was only after he had left that I found his drawing. On Saturday evening he attended the BFI London Film Festival Awards. I had already got Cate earlier at the Truth premiere, so that eliminated one obstacle in my file. Plus I had the Richard III ready and when he emerged at a quarter past the witching hour with his agreeable face on, I got it graphed.
Carly Bawden is starring as Dahlia in the West End transfer of McQueen at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, replacing Dianna Agron who played the role during the plays sell-out premiere season at the St James Theatre earlier this year. Written by James Phillips and directed by John Caird, It is a revelationary insight into the imagination of Lee “Alexander’ McQueen, one of British fashion’s most notorious and brilliant artists. Dahlia is based on a 2008 quote by the late designer. “I’ve got a 600 year-old elm tree in my garden. I made up a story: a girl lives in it and comes out of the darkness to meet a prince and becomes a queen.” In the play Lee discovers Dahlia, a strange and beautiful girl lurking in his house. She has been watching him from a tree for the past 11 nights. Instead of calling the police, he takes her on a wild one-night tour of London, believing she might know him better than he knows himself. Dahlia is his other self.
I drew this sketch of Carly as Dahlia wearing the centrepiece’golden feather coat’. It’s my favourite because of what it represents she said in a recent interview. ‘It’s quite a striking piece.He (McQueen) was always attracted to misogyny and things like that when all he really wanted to do was protect women…he said his clothes were like armour.The golden coat provides this striking, beautiful armour.”
Carly played Squeaky Fromme opposite Catherine Tate in Jamie Lloyd’s revival of Assassins at The Menier Chocolate Factory last year. I met her on the final night and she signed a Squeaky sketch for me. When we caught up again, at the Haymarket stage door after Saturday’s matinee, I asked her to graph this Dahlia drawing, said gasped, ‘Oh It’s YOU!”…but in a ‘nice way’-not a ‘you’re something on my shoe’ sorta way and was once again very complimentary about the rendering.
“Arthur Miller’s 1994 play towers over the dismal lowlands of current West End theatre like a majestic mountain peak.” wrote The Guardian’s Michael Billington in his five-star review of Broken Glass. Pretty impressive stuff from one of Britain’s leading critics.
The play focuses on Phillip and Sylvia Gellburg, a Jewish couple living in 1938 New York whose lives are affected by the anti-Semitic events of Kristallnacht (The night of Broken Glass) in Nazi Germany. Sylvia becomes paralysed from the waist down, a condition her doctor believes is psychosomatic and treats it as such. But what was the cause and who is the real cripple?
Originally staged in London at the National in 1994, this revival began at the Tricycle Theatre, a small fringe venue in Kilburn in late 2010. It returned for a month run in August the following year before transferring to the Vaudeville Theatre in the West End in September for a four month season. An excellent cast was headed by Antony Sher and Tara Fitzgerald in the lead roles. “Sher gives a superb performance of crippling anxiety…Fitzgerald brings a potent mixture of warmth,sensuality and grief,” wrote Charles Spencer of their performances in the Daily Telegraph. Both signed my sketch in person on a chilly winter’s evening at the stage door.
I had the good fortune to walk on the (Oscar) Wilde side on Saturday after detouring from The Elephant Man across to Covent Garden to the Vaudeville Theatre’s stage door on my post-matinee meandering, where The Importance of Being Earnest is currently playing. I was after a romantic, repressed spinster in love with a village preacher – Miss Laetitia Prism…well not the character, but the actress playing Mr. W’s parody for ‘a woman with a past’, the delightful Michele Dotrice. As Alexandra Coghlan wrote in The Arts Desk, “The unexpected heroes of the night are Michele Dotrice and Richard O’Callaghan as ageing lovers Miss Prism and Dr Chasuble. Quivering with girlish passion, Dotrice balances comedy with a startling pathos in her ‘female of repellent aspect’.”
Michele has a long and distinguished stage career, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company at the age of sixteen, but she is probably known more to global audiences as Betty,the long-suffering wife of ‘Oh Frank!’ Spencer (Michael Crawford) in the BBC series Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em. Forty years on the show still attracts tens of thousands of hits each day on YouTube.
Michele left her character on the stage and slipped out the door to have a bite to eat before going back for a sold-out evening performance. With a line from Miss Prism’s dialogue in mind, “I am not in favour of this modern mania for turning bad people into good people at a moments notice”, I disrupted her journey and asked if she could sign my sketch, which she did ‘with pleasure’ and my trusty black Pentel fine point pen. She must have had that same line in her mind, using the ‘good’ word, for the drawing, not necessarily the drawer.
Comedian and writer Jo Burke is a popular regular on the UK stand-up and Cabaret circuit as herself or her alter-ego characters, ‘Mary Magdalene’ and ‘Pie Shop Pat’. She previewed her new show ‘i Scream’ for the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival at London’s Leicester Square on Saturday evening. It’s a brutally honest account of her Edinburgh ‘mini-meltdown’ last year when she performed not one, but two shows. In spite of the exhausting stint both pieces received four-star reviews as has this one, so fingers crossed for a less stressful, but equally successful Festival this time round. I really liked her ‘iScream’ poster and based my sketch on it, which is inspired by the CARRIE film because “I love dark humour and my shows are always dark”, she said.