In the Autumn of 2013 the delightful stand-up comedian Sooz Kempner developed a series of characters for her blog-style YouTube sketches. She took four of those characters to the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe, entitled CHARACTER ACTIVIST. Before that she did a series of ‘works in progress’, including London’s Leicester Square Theatre. The four characters included Phalydia, a trust-fund, posh Soho It-girl, Nancy Spratt the oldest and revered West End diva, Michelle an Essex WAG and Danielle, Britain’s 4th ranked heptathlete. Late late year Sooz appeared at the Phoenix Club in the den of the Phoenix Theatre, where she signed my montage character sketch.
“This is one of those rare occasions when play, performance and production perfectly coalesce,” wrote Michael Billington in his five-star Guardian review of Edward Albee’s landmark 1962 marital-crisis drama, WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? at London’s Harold Pinter Theatre. The latest West End revival, directed by James Macdonald, stars Imelda Staunton, Conleth Hill, Luke Treadaway and Imogen Poots. All four along with the production received rave reviews from every major critic after it’s opening this week. Billington summed them up. “Imelda Staunton brilliantly embodies Edward Albee’s campus Medusa in the shape of Martha. Conleth Hill matches her every inch of the way as her seemingly ineffectual husband George.
This is, however a team show and the young couple are excellently portrayed. Luke Treadaway as Nick combines the golden arrogance of youth with the smug disdain of the scientist for a battered old humanist like George. Imogen Poots in her West End debut, strikingly shows the child-like Honey, switching between awed delight in the older couple’s outrageousness and a growing awareness that she herself is a victim of Nick’s contempt.” The four cast members signed my drawing as they arrived for the Saturday matinee last weekend.
Britain’s greatest living playwright, Sir Tom Stoppard has two major revivals of his on London stages at the moment. The Menier Chocolate Factory’s production of TRAVESTIES has transferred to the Apollo and the 50th anniversary of ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD has returned to its origins at the Old Vic, where I meet the Oscar, Tony and Olivier and many more Award winner last Saturday evening before the opening performance. In a recent interview with the Guardian’s Andrew Dickson, the nearly eighty-year old was asked if he recognised himself as the person who wrote the absurdist riff on Shakespeare’s HAMLET? “I remember him well,” he said. “Some of the writing is a little dandy-esque, as he was. At the time I attached more importance to the joys of receiving the right words in the right order, probably too little importance to the motor that kept the wheels turning.” He admits not being able to give both plays a ‘little more oomph’…a few small changes to freshen them up. in 1979, when Maggie Thatcher was elected PM, Sir Tom labelled himself a conservative with a small ‘c’. I am a conservative in politics, literature. education and theatre.” In 2007 he called himself a ‘timid libertarian.’ He answered “yes” when asked if he still smoked, adding with a grin,”…but I’ve got nothing intelligent to say that justifies my position. I don’t have one. I just smoke.” This is what I could call my ‘Sir Tom ciggy with a siggy sketch.’
American musical theatre dancer, singer, actress and choreographer Donna McKechnie
Has been very much part of the fabric of Broadway for more than half a century since making her debut in the 1961 production of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING. Fifteen years later she won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for originating the role of Cassie, the former chorus girl making a comeback in A CHORUS LINE. In 1980 she was diagnosed with crippling arthritis and told she would never dance again, but defied those odds to return to THE CHORUS LINE six years later and appeared in the West End revival of CAN CAN. She has returned to the London stage to feature in the musical THE WILD PARTY at The Other Palace (formerly the St James) where she signed my sketch.
The longest running London Phantom is Welsh musical theatre actor and singer John Owen-Jones since Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical sensation THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA first opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in September 1986. He played 1400 performances in his three-and-a-half years in the role, from 2001-2005 and agreed to continue for a limited period from September 2015 until the end of January 2016.
John is currently appearing in the UK Premiere of the musical THE WILD PARTY. At Lord Webber’s The Other Palace where he signed this Phantom drawing for me.
When Daniel Radcliffe played Billy Craven, the lead in Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy THE CRIPPLE OF INNISHMAAN at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2013, I drew a number of sketches of him and the rest of the cast, which they all kindly signed for me. Daniel’s character, the orphan and outcast ‘Cripple Billy’, eager to escape the gossip, poverty and boredom if Innishmann, tries for a part in a Hollywood film in the neighbouring Inishmore and to everyone’s surprise, gets his chance.
Daniel signed the original of this drawing, but I wanted to add one of his best lies of dialogue, so on a copy of the sketch I added the text. He has returned to the London stage to star in the 50th anniversary of Tom Stoppard’s ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD at the Old Vic and was signing in the foyer after Saturday’s evening performance, which was a perfect opportunity to get it graphed and dedicated.
Moliere’s classic comedy THE MISER has received a liberal adaption by director Sean Foley and co-adaptee Phil Porter in a major revival which started at the Garrick Theatre last week after short runs at the Bath Theatre Royal and Richmond. Griff Rhys Jones plays the Harpagon, the paranoid lead, fanatical about protecting his abundant wealth. He is ably supported by a splendid comedic cast that includes Lee Mack, Mathew Horne, Ryan Gage and Kathy Wix, who all signed this sketch for me on arrival for the matinee on Saturday.
Back in the summer of 2012, Stephen Mangan and Lisa Dillon starred in Joe Penhall’s BIRTHDAY at the Royal Court in London. Lisa played Lisa and Stephen was Ed, a thirty-something couple with fertility problems who reverse roles and take advantage of a new procedure that allows him to give birth to their second child.
I drew this sketch, but didn’t get a chance to get it signed at the time.I managed to catch-up with Stephen when he appeared in JEEVES & WOOSTER at the Duke of York’s a year later and posted it here. This week I completed the mission when Lisa also ‘graphed it for me at the Theatre Royal Haymarket where she is featuring in the Shakespeare double-Bill (sorry), MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST. So here it is again.
English character comedienne extraordinaire Maddy Anholt has had two sell-out shows in the past two years at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Following the critically acclaimed, five-star DIARY OF A DATING ADDICT in 2015, Mandy returned with RENT GIRL last year, co-written and directed by Hardee’s Singh Kohli. With thirty fast approaching and facing the Grim Wrinkler, Maddy goes online in DATING ADDICT to find the man of her dreams.
In RENT GIRL she introduces us to a myriad of characters such as Shazza, bastard child of Persia and South London, Belle of Brixton, Princess of Peckham, Queen of Quitters, Dame of Dickheads. Maddy also brought both shows to London. I left this sketch for her at the Museum of Comedy last year and she returned it signed with a nice thank you note.
The West End sensation at the moment is the effervescent 23 year-old Londoner Charlie Stemp and his performance as Arthur Kipps in Julian Fellowes’ revised version of HALF A SIXPENCE, which transferred from the sell-out season at the Chichester Festival Theatre to the Noel Coward Theatre last November. It’s a role originally created as a star vehicle for Tommy Steele and the 1963 West End Premiere. Despite Charlie’s dizzying rise to the top of the theatre world, he is kept grounded by his family. His Dad sent him a review with his name misspelt, “this Charlie Stump is doing well.”
But he new how to sign his name on my sketch for me last Saturday when I caught up with him arriving for the matinee.