Alongside Vaslav Nijinsky, Vladimir Vasiliev and Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov is considered one of the greatest ballet dancers in history. He returned to the London stage last week, not as a dancer, but reading the poetry of Nobel Laurate Joseph Brodsky, who was one of the first people Mikhail meet in New York when he defected from the Soviet Union in 1974.
Joseph was a huge influence on ‘Misha’ In the years the later revolutionised and popularised ballet as a performer and choreographer, while launching a successful parallel career as an actor, earning an Oscar nomination playing Yuri Kopeikine in the 1977 film THE TURNING POINT. Their relationship forms the basis for Latvian director Alvin Hermanis’s experimental theatre piece, BRODSKY/BARYSHNIKOV in which Mikhail reads his friend’s poetry in the original Russian. After productions in Riga, Te Aviv and New York Mikhail, performed the show for five nights at the Apollo Theatre in London, where I managed to meet him at the stage door and he signed my sketch.
For his last West End role Freddie Fox had less than 48 hours notice. It was just the minor part Romeo opposite Lily James in Kenneth Branagh’s ROMEO & JULIET at the Garrick Theatre last year, after the previous lead Richard Madden and his understudy Tom Hanson took the phrase ‘break a leg’ a bit too literally. He got the call on Friday and “they wanted me on stage Saturday” he said. Technically he knew the role, having played it 10 months earlier at The Crucible in Sheffield. He described the first night as ‘a memory test’ an making sure he stood in the right play and not fall off the stage.
For his next trick, Freddie’s latest stage appearance as the avant-garde dandy Tristan Tzara in Tom Stoppard’s ‘fiendishly-complicated’ TRAVESTIES, he had months to prepare. Directed by Patrick Marber, the Menier Chocolate Factory production sold out before it opened at the off-West End venue before transferring to the Apollo. It weaves together a fictionalised meeting between Vladimir Lenin, James Joyce and the Romanian-French writer Tzara in Zurich in 1917.
In his four-star review for the Evening Standard, Henry Hutchings wrote, “It’s Freddie Fox who dazzles, revelling in the anarchic energy of a character who’s part nuisance, part genius.” It’s a performance that has earned him a nomination for the best Supporting Actor Olivier Award at next month’s ceremony. Freddie signed this sketch for me at the stage door between shows last Saturday.
Tom Hollander’s welcome return to the stage after a six-year absence has resulted in a Best Actor Olivier Award nomination for his ‘career-best’ performance in Tom Stoppard’s golden oldie TRAVESTIES. The Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival, directed by Patrick Marber, sold out before opening night late last year and transferred to the West End’s Apollo Theatre. Tom plays the central Henry Carr, who was a British consular official in Zurich during the first World War and encountered Russian communist revolutionary Lenin, the founder of Dada, Tristan Tzara and Irish author James Joyce, all of whom were in the city at the time. As a member of a group of actors called The English Players, managed by Joyce, he was cast in the leading role of Algernon in Oscar Wide’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.
In his five-star review, The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish said “Tom Hollander is hilarious in this mind-bogglingly entertaining Stoppard revival”. He went on to write, “Tom Stoppard’s award-winning 1974 comedy finds the man, who memorably described himself as a ‘bounced Czech’ performing such hire-wire feats of linguistic daring that even undertakes an entire scene in the limerick form. And that’s not the half of it: there are exchanges in Russian, outbreaks of nonsense, a super-abundance of allusion, word-play, parodies and to crown it all, a running pastiche of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.” Tom signed my sketch of him as Henry at the Apollo’s stage door last weekend.
British actress Gemma Arterton has been the subject for a number of my theatrical renderings and here’s another one. It must have something to do with the fact she has ‘art’ in her name. I drew two sketches of her as NELL GWYNN, one a single portrait and this montage of her as the the celebrated 17th century actress and mistress to Charles II, when she appeared in the Globe’s transfer of Jessica Swale’s play at the Apollo theatre last year.
She signed the portrait there and I was passing the Donmar Warehouse on Saturday and she happened to be outside the front doors signing after the final matinee performance of George Bernard Shaw’s SAINT JOAN after a two-month run. Following her triumph at the Apollo, Gemma’s portrayal of the feminist icon and spiritual warrior was equally acclaimed in the Josie Rourke-directed contemporary production. I also happened to still have this sketch in my folder, which she was happy to also sign.
The World premiere of Jessica Swale’s NELL GWYNNE at the Shakespeare’s Globe transferred to the West End’s Apollo Theatre earlier this year with Gemma Arterton in the title role as the exuberant Nell Gwynn, who rose from lowly orange-seller to England’s favourite actress and mistress of King Charles ll in this hilarious, heart warming production, directed by Christopher Luscombe.
“Gemma Arterton is a sparkling stage presence,” wrote Charlotte Marshall in her London Theatre review.
I did attempt to catch Gemma in person after a couple of Saturday matinee performances, but the stage door management said she didn’t usually leave the theatre between shows, so I left this sketch with them and if came back signed.
I had always been meaning to draw British actress Sarah Miles. Probably for the past twenty years, maybe longer, but kept putting it off. Then, two weeks ago when I was reading an article on one of my favourite directors, David Lean, I decided to do it! Known for towering cinematic achievements such as The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago, it is his much-maligned and critically savaged Ryan’s Daughter that remains my favourite. I first saw it at my hometown cinema, having just crossed into purity and instantly fell in love with Sarah, who played Rosy Ryan, the film’s titular character. Because of the critical reception, Lean stopped making films for years afterwards, even though it was nominated for four Academy Awards, including one for Sarah. This part of the article was accompanied by a pic of her as Rosy, which prompted me to take the 4B and start sketching as my mind meandered down memory lane. I had always wanted to see Sarah on stage. She played Ann Kron in Well at London’s Trafalgar Studios in late 2008, transferring to the Apollo and ending four days before I arrived in the UK. Bummer. I added a quick rendering of her from the play to complete the screen and stage composition before placing it in the capable hands of the Royal Mail. Less than a week later, it arrived back, signed and dedicated with a note saying I had captured her perfectly and requesting one for her scrapbook.
Continuing the theme of yesterday’s post about parents and their children currently sharing the London stage, Dear Lupin opened this week at the Apollo Theatre, with father and son, James and Jack Fox in the poignant two-hander, after a successful UK tour.
Adapted for the stage by Michael Simkins, the play is based on the award-winning 2012 surprise best-seller,’Dear Lupin, Letters To A Wayward Son’ by the late racing journalist Roger Mortimer and the humorous father and son letters that spanned 25 years.
Members of Britain’s most famous acting dynasty, two-time BAFTA winner James plays Mortimer (and a host of walk-on characters, including an ageing Soho prostitute) with his youngest son Jack as the rebellious offspring Charlie-“a youthful delinquent who grows into a mature delinquent…much loved by his dad.” In her four-star review for the Evening Standard, Fiona Montford wrote, “The real-life affection between James and Jack Fox perfectly suits this charming tale of parental love.”
I managed to catch James and Jack, together at the Apollo stage door after their first Saturday matinee. They both signed this sketch, adding simple dedications, with the senior Fox resisting his character’s quest to write me a letter regarding my wayward vices of drawing theatre sketches and sig-stalking.
Dame Kristin Scott Thomas completed her three-month role as Queen Elizabeth ll in Peter Morgan’s hit production The Audience, directed by Stephen Daldryat London’s Apollo Theatre on Saturday evening. The play received it’s world premiere next door at the Gielgud in February 2013, with Dame Helen Mirren in the lead role. It’s inspired by the Queen’s private weekly meetings with all of Britain’s Prime Ministers during her six decades on the throne. This quick revival was updated to include the recent UK General Election, opening two days before polling. Apparently auditions were held for an ‘Ed Miliband’ just in case, but in response to the results, Morgan rewrote the scene between the Monarch and David Cameron (Mark Dexter). Coinciding with this production, Dame Helen was reprising the royal role at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway. It finished it’s season at the end of June, with Helen winning every major award, including the Tony. Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph wrote, “Scott Thomas is a match for Mirren,’ a sentiment matched by the majority of critics and theatre-goers alike. Just weeks before embarking on her portrayal, Kristin had first-hand experience of her subject when she meet the Queen to receive her damehood for services to drama. Kristin recalled the conversation in an interview afterwards and said the Queen asked her what she was doing next. After being told she replied, ‘It would be quite q challenge.”
Waiting at stage doors on final nights can be drawn out affairs, so I didn’t have my drawing out when Dame Kristin was super quick to appear to a sizeable gathering of her ‘subjects’, She chatted amongst them and signed items which gave me time to get it ready and queue for the royal siggy of approval.
I first saw Welsh actress Aimée-Ffion Edwards in Jez Butterworth’s outstanding play Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre on London’s Shaftesbury Ave. The play opened at the downstairs theatre of London’s Royal Court Theatre in 2009 to rave reviews. It starred Mark Rylance as Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron, a modern day Pied Piper and Mackenzie Crook as Ginger, an aspiring DJ and unemployed plasterer.
The title is based on a short a short poem ‘And did those feet in ancient time’ by William Blake, best known as the anthem ‘Jerusalem’ with music written by Hubert Parry in 1916.
Jerusalem along with most of the original cast, including Aimée-Ffion, transferred to the Apollo Theatre in the West End in 2010 before its Broadway run in 2011 followed by a London revival later that year, again at the Apollo. It won multiple awards, including the Olivier and Tony.
Aimee-Ffion played Phaedra, the stepdaughter of local thug Troy Whitworth who goes missing in the play. She is seen at the beginning of both Act One and Two singing the hymn ‘Jerusalem’ dressed in fairy wings, which was the basis for this sketch which she signed for me at the Apollo Stage door.
Alan’s Bennett’s play The Madness of George III premiered in November 1991 on the Lyttelton stage of the National Theatre in London, directed by Nicholas Hytner, with the late, great Nigel Hawthorne in the title role.
It’s the fictionalised biographical study of the latter half of the reign of George III. Critics labelled Nigel’s Olivier Award winning performance as “astonishing” and “unforgettable”. He also played the role in the 1994 film version, entitle The Madness of King George, also directed by Sir Nicholas H. I’ve always liked the film’s tagline: ‘His Majesty was all powerful and all knowing. But he wasn’t quite all there.’ It was nominated for 4 Oscars, including one for Nigel and 14 BAFTAS.
David Haig played the mental monarch in the revival of the play at The Apollo in the Spring of 2012. The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer compared David’s performance to Nigel’s saying, “it seemed an impossible act to follow, but David Haig proves every inch Hawthorne’s equal in a performance of extraordinary emotion, tenderness and humour”. David was nominated for an Olivier Award.