In the early years of television transmission in New Zealand during the later half of the 1960s I used to watch an Australian show called SKIPPY THE BUSH KANGAROO. It followed the adventures of a young boy and a highly intelligent marsupial, set in the fictional Waratah National Park near Sydney. A popular character was Clarissa ‘Clancy’ Merrick played by English actress Liza Goddard – my first introduction to one of my and Britain’s favourite performers.
Since then, Liza’s stage and small screen career has spanned five decades, with over 30 theatre appearances in the UK including a number of West End productions. Another telly favourite of mine was BERGERAC, which starred John Nettles in the title role as the unorthodox police officer and recovering alcoholic on the Channel island of Jersey. I mention this because Liza played the recurring role of glamorous jewel thief Philippa Vale, nicknamed ‘The Ice Maiden’. Years later Liza reunited with her ‘old flame’ John (as Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby) in an episode of MIDSOMER MURDERS, another favourite.
During the gap between the pandemic lockdowns this year, Liza appeared in the Theatre Royal Windsor’s socially-distanced production of Agatha Christie’s gripping psychological thriller, LOVE FROM A STRANGER, which ran for a week last month. I posted this quick portrait sketch to her and she kindly signed it for me.
Agatha Christie’s legendary whodunit THE MOUSETRAP is the world’s longest-running play in modern times, since starting at the Ambassadors Theatre on the 25th November 1952. In 1974 it transferred next door to its current residency, the St Martin’s Theatre.
In that time many different casts have appeared. The original included Sir Richard Attenborough as Detective Sergeant Trotter and his wife, Sheila Sim as Mollie Ralston. The contemporary cast changes regularly and the current one began in April this year.
Over the past few years I have drawn a couple of characters after each changeover. Mollie, the proprietor of Monkswell Manor, where the action is set, is one I have concentrated on. When passing the theatre last month I noticed that Phoebe Fildes was playing Mollie. I had met her at the Vaudeville earlier this year when she was Lady Stutfield in Oscar Wilde’s A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE and she signed my cast drawing.
Phoebe also played the Girl in the musical ONCE at the Phoenix Theatre and spent two years with the Shakespeare’s Globe’s world tour taking HAMLET to every country on earth with multiple roles, including Ophelia, Gertrude and Horatio. So I had to do a quick sketch of her as Mollie from the publicity stills in front of the theatre, which signed it for me.
David Suchet is best known for his portrayal of Agatha Christie’s most famous detective Hercule Poirot. He has played the eponymous Belgian sleuth since 1989, so you would think some of his characteristics my have rubbed off – impatience, opinionated and direct… but no, he’s quite the opposite, one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet.
He signed a black biro sketch of Poirot after a performance of All My Sons with Zoe Wanamaker at the Apollo Theatre stage door foyer in June 2010. One thing that they do obviously both have in common is doing things in an orderly manner. Placing my sketch neatly on the table he produced a complete set of Sharpie pens. A pack of 20 with every colour available. He selected the red, looked at the drawing then signed and dedicated it to me.