Nana Mouskouri returned to London last month for a special concert at the Royal Festival Hall. The 84 year-old Greek singing legend and global music star was celebrating sixty years as a performer with her recently released album ‘Forever Young’, featuring covers of songs by Leonard Cohen, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Amy Winehouse and many more.
Because of her varied and multilingual repertoire, being fluent in many languages, Nana has become one of the biggest-selling female recording artists of all time, often called Europe’s answer to Barbara Streisand. Her distinctive voice is a product of having only one functioning vocal cord, ranging from a ‘ husky dark alto to a ringing coloratura mezzo’. Nana is also a UNICEF ambassador and from 1994-1999 was an elected member of the European Parliament.
I left this sketch at the Royal Festival Hall for Nana to sign and a few weeks later it arrived back from Greece, signed and dedicated. Bravo!
English golfer Justin Rose returned to the World #1 ranking, defending his Turkish Airlines Open title after winning a playoff over Li Haotong on Sunday. Justin had briefly held the top spot in September this year as well as claiming the season-long FedEx Cup Playoffs and the $US10million prize. He was also runner-up at the Open Championship at Scotland’s Carnoustie Golf Links and was part of Europe’s Ryder Cup winning team in Paris a week later to round off a very successful month.
Justin won his maiden major – the US Open – at the Merioneth’s Golf Club in Pennsylvania in 2013 and has finished second twice at the Masters in 2015 and 2017 and was T3 at the 2012 PGA Championship. At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiroo he won the gold medal.
I sent this drawing to Justin while he was competing in the Scottish Open at the Gullane Golf Club in July this year, where he kindly signed and dedicated it for me.
Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s remarkable and courageous play, THE JUNGLE, regarded as one of most vital and important productions to be staged over the past year, has just completed its hugely successful run at London’s Playhouse Theatre, after an initial a sell-out season at the Young Vic and a cluster of five-star reviews. Next month it opens at St Anne’s Warehouse in New York.
THE JUNGLE follows the hopes and despair of the inhabitants of Europe’s largest unofficial refugee camp the Calais Jungle on the northern coast of France, which became the home for more than 10,000 people in 2015. The majority of the original 18 strong cast will be transferring including Ben Turner and John Pfumojena. British-Iranian actor Ben, best known to TV viewers as the nurse Jay Faldren in BBC’s CASULTY and Louis XV in DOCTOR WHO plays the proud but cranky chef Salar who runs the camps thriving Afghan cafe and distrusts the British.
“Ben Turner stands out as Salar, the owner of the Jungle’s main restaurant who fights deep-seated anger at the destruction of his native Afghanistan to become one of the camp’s leaders and peace-makers,” wrote Mark Ludmon in his British Theatre.com review.
Zimbabwean-born, London-based actor and musician John Pfumojena plays teenager Okot from Darfur in Western Sudan with “astonishing intensity of pain” according to the Independent’s Paul Taylor. Sarah Compton’s review for WhatsOnStage said that John provides “the play’s single most moving scene when he explains how his journey has changed him, obliterating the person he was even though he is still only 17.” John also composed the music for the production which The Stage’s JN Benjamin said “… is the beating heart of the show. John’s compositions unite audiences and actors through mellifluous harmonies.”
Both John and Ben signed their respective sketches on Saturday at the stage door, before the final matinee.
A ‘rendering on the run’… a literal two-minute sketch of actress Ukranian-born actress Olga Kurylenko. I found out she was attending the special screening of Rowan Atkinson’s latest installment of the spy comedy JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN at the Curzon Mayfair last month so did this quick line drawing for her to graph at the event, which she did.
Olga has kindly signed a couple of my previous sketches while she was filming her international breakthrough role as Bolivian secret service agent Camille Montes in the 22nd James Bond film QUANTUM OF SOLACE in 2008. Olga, a trained ballerina, was discovered as a model in Moscow at the age of 13 and moved to Paris to pursue that career path three years later, eventually swaping the catwalk for the screen. Fluent in Russian, French and English, she is now a French citizen who has resided in London since 2009.
One of cricket’s most popular players is the England all-rounder Moeen Ali. Known fondly as ‘The Beard that’s Feared’, Moeen is a Muslim of Pakistani descent born in Birmingham. He signed for Warwickshire County team in 2004 at the age of 15, making his first class debut the following year.
Moeen bats left-handed and bowls right-arm off-breaks. While he built a reputation as an elegant batsman, it was his off-spin bowling that earned him the call-up to the England side in 2014 after the surprise retirement of Graeme Swan. He made his test debut against Sri Lanka at Lords and scored his maiden test ton in the second test at Headingly, unbeaten on 108 when England went within two balls of saving the series with Jimmy Anderson bowled off the penultimate ball.
Moeen plays in all formats for the National side. Earlier in 2014 he was selected for the ODI series in the West Indies and the World T20 in Bangladesh a few weeks later. He has 5 Test and 3 ODI centuries with a highest score of 155 and 128 respectively and 72 in T20. His best test figures are 6/53 against South Africa at Lords in 2017. Moeen’s charity work includes being an Ambassador for ‘StreetChance’, which holds free weekly cricket coaching clinics for deprived children across the UK.
Moeen signed my sketch after England’s victory over India in the 5th and final test of the series at the Kia Oval in September.
Scottish actor Jack Lowden won the Olivier Award for his harrowing portrayal of an ailing and anguished artist in Richard Eyre’s London revival of Ibsen’s GHOSTS. Initially staged at the Almeida in the Autumn of 2013, the production transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in the West End, concluding in March 2014. Jack played Oswald Alving opposite Lesley Manville (who also won the Olivier) as Helen,his widowed mother. He has inherited syphilis from his lecherous late father and as his heath deteriorates, returns home from living as a painter in Paris, where falls for the maid Regina, who turns out to be his philandering father’s illegitimate daughter.
The subject matter of religion, general disease, incest and euthanasia, “caused an explosion of outrage and critical venom,” said the director, when it was first staged in 1882 in the US. In his five-star review for the Telegraph, Charles Spencer wrote, “Jack Lowden, big, shambolic and increasingly distraught as her bohemian artist son conveys the ugly, egotism of the chronically sick and the sheer terror of his terrible illness. The plays closing moments are almost too upsetting to watch.”
Jack is currently back on the London stage after enjoying his first major international onscreen success in the 2016 BBC miniseries WAR AND PEACE. He stars opposite Hayley Atwell in Shakespeare’s MEASURE FOR MEASURE at the Donmar Warehouse, Josie Rourke’s final production as artistic director for the intimate Covent Garden venue. In a unique gender-reversal, Jack and Hayley alternate the roles of Angelo and Isabella during the play. Jack signed my sketch when he arrived for last Saturday’s matinee.
Anglo-Irish playwright, screenwriter and director Martin McDonagh’s latest stage play A VERY VERY VERY DARK MATTER opened last week at London’s Bridge Theatre. Set in Copenhagen, it delves behind the dark sources of the beloved fairytales of Danish children’s author Hans Christian Anderson.
Martin is a person I admire greatly. With no formal training he wrote a stack of plays in 1990s that made him one of the most celebrated new English-language dramatists of his generation. The first six, separated into two trilogies, are located in and around County Galway on Ireland’s western seaboard, where he spent most of his childhood holidays. His first non-Irish play, THE PILLOWMAN was staged at the National Theatre in 2003, winning the Olivier Award for Best New Play and was also Tony nominated in 2005. He had previously won the Olivier for THE LIEUTENANT OF INISMORE and collected his third for HANGMEN in 2016. He is yet to win a Tony after four nominations.
Martin has stated that it’s the screen, not the stage that is his favourite medium. In that realm, he is very very very much in demand after his third feature, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, which he wrote and directed, featured heavily during the latest awards season with seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Original Screenplay. It won five BAFTAs from nine nominations, winning Best Film and Best British Film and Best Original Screenplay for Martin who also claimed the producing, writing and directing Golden Globes. He’s no stranger to film awards. His screenplay for his first feature, IN BRUGES (2008) won the BAFTA and he received his fourth nomination for an Oscar, which he won on his first attempt in 2005 for SIX SHOOTER in the Best Live Action Short category.
I was very very very pleased to meet Martin at the World Premiere of A VERY VERY VERY DARK MATTER at the Bridge Theatre last week where he signed my sketch.
The ‘fantastic’ (as Guardian critic Jake Nevins called her) Blair Brown returned to the Broadway stage late last year in Beau Willimon’s political play THE PARISIAN WOMAN at the Hudson Theatre alongside Uma Thurman after a 15 year absence. It was hardly a break from the New York stage, coming hot-on-the-heels of her off-Broadway run in ON THE SHORE OF THE WILD WORLD. She also has a long list of TV credits, the most recent being ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK.
My personal favourite was THE DAYS AND NIGHTS OF MOLLY DODD which ran for five seasons from 1987-1991. Blair played the title role, a bohemian woman in her thirties struggling with her career, men (and the occasional woman) and family where ‘her warmth and emotional accessibility were the root cause of most of Molly’s problems in life’. Blair was nominated for an Emmy Award for the five consecutive years the show aired. After ‘Molly Dodd’ she became a prolific Broadway actress, winning a Tony Award for her role as Margrethe, wife of physicist Niels Bohr in Michael Frayn’s COPENHAGEN at the Royal Theatre.
I sent this sketch to Blair while she was appearing at the Hudson Theatre earlier this year and was very pleased to get it back, signed and dedicated.
Arguably the world’s best batsman and the current number one in both test and ODI formats, the Indian skipper Virat Kohli etched himself further into cricketing immortality yesterday when he became the fastest player to reach 10,000 ODI runs, surpassing fellow Indian great Sachin Tendulkar. The milestone came in a remarkable match against the West Indies at Visakhapatnam, which ended in a thrilling tie. Virat finished unbeaten on 157, his 37th ODI century in 205 innings. He is the 13th person to pass 10,000 runs and the fifth Indian to join the elite list.
During the late summers tour of England he became the highest run-scorer in all formats of the game for 2018. His astounding stats also include 24 Test centuries with a top score of 243. ESPN has ranked him as one of the planets most famous athletes and this year TIME included him on its 100 most influential people in the world list.
Virat signed my drawing at the teams hotel in London last month, during the fifth and final Test against England at the Kia Oval, a series in which he scored the most runs by some distance.
Although Sir David Hare is best known for his multi-award winning stage work, the distinguished English writer and director has also had great success with his screen career. He won the BAFTA for writing and directing LICKING HITLER in 1978, a television play about the black propaganda unit operating in England during WWII, and has been nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes for his THE HOURS (2003) and THE READER (2009) adapted screenplays. He won the Writers Guild of America award for the former.
Sir David signed my quick portrait sketch at the recent BFI London Film Festival’s Gala screening of THE WHITE CROW, which he wrote about Soviet ballet legend Rudolph Nureyev’s defection to the West, directed by Ralph Fiennes.