Oscar winner F Murray Abraham returned to the London stage after a 21 year absence in THE MENTOR at the Vaudeville Theatre in June. Written by the German novelist Daniel Kehlmann and translated by Christopher Hampton, F Murray plays a tetchy older author clashing with a younger dramatist in a compelling and humorous study of creative anxiety.
As usual F Murray was generous with his time at the stage door and signed this drawing for me, before the play finished its run last week.
After twenty-two years with the Royal Ballet, principal dancer Zenaida Yanowsky retired last month. The 41 year-old French-born Spanish ballerina’s last performance was in Australia as Paulina in THE WINTER’S TALE at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre as part of the Royal Ballet’s summer season in Brisbane. She joined the Covent Garden company in 1994 as a First Artist and was promoted to Principal in 2001, performing the leading roles in the classical and contemporary repertory. In 2005 Zenaida was voted Dancer of the Year by the readers of the magazine ‘Dance Europe’. I left this sketch for Zenaida to sign at the Royal Opera House stage door, which she kindly did.
I was very pleased to receive my drawing of British actress Susan Hampshire back yesterday, signed and dedicated. I have been a big fan since I first saw her in Disney’s THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA in 1964. Most people will know her as Fleur in THE FORSYTE SAGA TV series for which she won the first of her three Emmy Awards. Susan’s most recent major role in a series was as Molly MacDonald, Lady of Glenbogle in MONARCH OF THE GLEN, which ran from 2000-2005.
Now 80 and retired from acting, Susan was thirty when she discovered she had dyslexia, which was the subject of her memoir ‘Susan’s Story’. She has been a prominent spokesperson for dyslexia ever since and was awarded an OBE by the Queen for her work. Along with my signed sketch, Susan also included a photo of herself with a very complimentary note about the drawing, so I’m extra pleased she liked it.
Since playing DOWNTON ABBEY’s Lady Edith for the last time in 2015, Southampton- born Laura Carmichael has been developing an impressive stage career. Last year she appeared in Jamie Lloyd’s THE MAIDS at the Trafalgar Studios and has returned to the intimate London venue this month in another one of his productions, the revival of Alexei Kaye Campbell’s 2009 spiky family drama APOLOGIA.
“However, it’s Carmichael who – released from the corsets of DOWNTON ABBEY – almost steals the show from Stockard Channing. She’s superb as American physiotherapist Trudy, turning uptick lilt of every nervous platitude into comedy gold”, wrote Tom Wicker in his The Stage review.
Laura signed my Trudi sketch at the stage door after last Saturday’s matinee performance.
“One of this generation’s most complete ballerinas,” is how The Observer’s Sarah Crompton described the Mariinsky Ballet’s star Viktoria Tereshkina in her review of SWAN LAKE and DON QUIXOTE during the St Petersburg – based company’s season at the Royal Opera House this month.
The ‘dazzling’ Viktoria, or as she wrote, the English version ‘Victoria’ on my sketch, graduated and joined the famous Mariinsky in 2001, promoted to Soloist four years later and became a Principal in 2008. She kindly signed my drawing after I left it at the stage door.
Dutch songstress Willemijn Verkaik has played the central role of Elphaba in the Musical WICKED over 2,000 times in London, Europe and Broadway, which is more than anyone else and is the only person to have played the role in three different languages – English, Dutch and German. She made her West End debut at the Apollo Victoria in 2013, but for health reasons left the show eight months later, only to return in January this year as part of the show’s 10th Anniversary celebrations. Her final performance was on the 22nd of July. In an online poll of 16,000 voters she was chosen as the ‘Wicked Personality of the Year’. It took me a while, missing Willemijn on a few occasions at various venues, but I finally got my sketch signed prior to her departure at the Apollo.
Russian prima ballerina Diana Vishneva returned to the London stage this Summer in the Mariinsky Ballet’s season at the Royal Opera House. One of the world’s leading dancers, Diana has made guest appearances for all the major Ballet companies, including The Bolshoi, the American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera, Balet Teatroalla Scalia in Milan and Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden.
The Financial Times wrote, “From Vishneva’s formidable technique to her musicality, her exquisite purity of style and her sheer artistry, she cannot be beaten.” There were only two chances to see Diana during the Covent Garden run, one of them was the title role in Alexei Ratmansky’s ANNA KARENINA. The Telegraph’s Mark Monahan said she was, “more luminous than ever at 41”. After that performance Diana signed this drawing I left at the stage door.
Irishman Brian Gleeson, together with father Brendan and older brother Domhnall form a formidable family trio of actors. Since starting his career in 2006 alongside his father in John Boorman’s THE TIGER’S TAIL, Brian has balanced his work between stage and screen. All three actually appeared on the Dublin boards together for four weeks in Enda Walsh’s THE WALWORTH FARCE in 2015.
He is currently playing Brick’s (Jack O’Connell) conspirational brother Gooper in the Young Vic’s West End revival of Tennessee William’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the Apollo, where he signed my sketch for me last week.
Swansea native Des Barrit is known for his comedic stage performances such as Bottom, Falstaff, Toad and the Antipholus twins in A COMEDY OF ERRORS for which he won the Olivier in 1992. His latest West End outing is as Hugh, the gay best friend of Stockard Channing’s character Kristin in Jamie Lloyd’s revival of APOLOGIA at the Trafalgar Studios. Although a compelling and at times tense family drama, Des once again punctuates the pathos with humour and most of the funniest lines, “Kristin is to diplomacy what I am to heterosexuality,” to quote one example.
I drew this montage of Des, including his 2002 Olivier-nominated role as Falstaff in HENRY IV Parts 1 & 2 at the Theatre Royal Bath and W.H. Auden in the National’s A HABIT OF ART, which he signed after a Saturday evening performance I was lucky enough to see a couple of weeks ago.
Hollywood stars Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell are attracting the critics attention and West End audiences in the Young Vic production of Tennessee William’s simmering Southern drama CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the Apollo theatre.
“Benedict Andrews radical update of the classic delivers emotional intensity shot through with humour- and a blistering performance from Jack O’Connell”, wrote Michael Billington in the intro to his Guardian review. The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish, who admitted he initially was going to write it off as a summer filler, saw the production and gave it four stars, adding, “Miller confirms she’s not just a pretty feline face… her Margaret is a hideously plausible portrait of a women putting on a grave face to hold back tears desolation.”
On a very wet Saturday lunchtime Sienna arrived at the stage door and signed for all who were waiting including my sketch, under the small covered doorway. Jack rides his bike, complete with helmet, so he flies in with no one recognising or stopping him. It took me a couple of return visits to figure this out, so last Saturday, when he did the same I managed to get his attention and his graph before he disappeared into the theatre and on stage for the matinee.