Drawing: Aimee Atkinson, Alexia McIntosh, Millie O’Connell, Natalie Paris, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Jarneia Richard-Noel in Six the Musical

Autographed drawing of Aimee Atkinson, Alexia McIntosh, Millie O'Connell, Natalie Paris, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Jarneia Richard-Noel in Six the Musical on London's West End

The ‘intoxicating Tudor take-off’, SIX THE MUSICAL by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss tells the tales of Henry VIII’s six wives, from their perspective, transforming from Queens to pop princesses, remixing five hundred years of her-storical heartbreak. It’s promoted as ‘a 75 minute celebration of sisterly sassitude.’ After an earlier, limited West End run, followed by a brief UK tour, then a month long sell-out residency at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, SIX returned to London’s Arts Theatre for an extended season.

Writing in The Times, Ann Treneman said “I predict a hit” and she was right. The soundtrack album passed two million streams a week ago and the production has been nominated for four Broadway World UK Awards, including Best Ensemble to start the theatre gongs season. “The grand surprise, though is just how gloriously-persuasively-coherent, confident and inventive the whole thing is. The upfront (feminist) thesis is to take us beyond the rudiments of that kindergarten mnemonic, Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived,” wrote Dominic Cavendish in his four-star review for the Telegraph.

The slick, kick-ass girl band members, Jarneia Richard-Noel (Catherine of Aragon), Millie O’Connell (Anne Boleyn), Natalie Paris (Jane Seymour), Alexia McIntosh (Anne of Cleves), Aimee Atkinson (Catherine Howard) and Maiya Quansah-Breed (Catherine Parr) perform a diverse range of musical genres from pop to hip-hop, including some R&B in an unsisterly competition, where each sing a song to prove they are the biggest victim.

All six signed my head sketches in the final week at the Arts Theatre, before embarking on another UK tour, returning to the London venue early next year.

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Drawing: Simon Callow in A Christmas Carol

simon-callow-carol

Simon Callow’s passion for the work of Charles Dickens continued over the festive season just passed, when he bought his solo show A CHRISTMAS CAROL back to the West End.

After sell-out runs in 2011/12, acclaimed by both critics and audiences alike, the brilliant veteran actor and ‘Dickensionado’ once again teamed up with director-designer Tom Cairns to perform Dickens’ own performance adaption of the much loved Christmas novella in a limited run at the intimate Arts Theatre. Described as a ‘one-man theatrical extravaganza of heart warming and deeply moving festive story-telling,’ Simon plays the Victorian author himself, Scrooge and a host of other parts in the 90 minute performance.

“Embody the narrator Scrooge and other characters, Callow whisks the audience away on a journey that makes you feel like you have never heard A CHRISTMAS CAROL before,” wrote George Simpson in the Express.

I meet the charming and charismatic Simon after his matinee performance a couple of Saturdays ago in the small cafe/bar/front of house/box office at the Arts Theatre and he signed this drawing for me.

Drawing: Sarah Alexander

Sarah Alexander

English actress Sarah Alexander finished her A-levels then left home at 19 for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, turning down a place at the University of Manchester for her first professional acting job.

Sarah has specialised in comedy, appearing in a number of high profile TV shows  including ARMSTRONG AND MILLER, SMITH AND JONES, COUPLING, SMACK THE PONY and WORST WEEK OF MY LIFE. She also played Dr Amanda Hunter in the hospital comedy GREEN WING.

Since 2013 Sarah has played the role of Polly Creek, the wife of Alan Davies’ title character in the BBC’s mystery crime drama JONATHAN CREEK.

Sarah’s stage credits include THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES and Lady Macbeth in ‘the Scottish play’. She returned to boards this month at the Arts Theatre in the West End in the new political satire A VIEW FROM ISLINGTON NORTH, where I met her after the opening matinee on Saturday and she signed this portrait sketch for me.

Drawing: Jasmine Hyde

Jasmine Hyde

I first met  English actress Jasmine Hyde at friend and fellow kiwi, Ben Farry’s London flat in the early part of this millennium to discuss a film project I was developing at the time.  Both Ben and Jasmine graduated from RADA in 2000, along with Daniel Mays who also joined us. Jasmine has had an varied stage and screen career along with acclaimed radio work includes the BBC dramatisation of John Mortimer’s RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY series and THE ARCHERS. In 2001 she won the prestigious Carlton Hobbs Award for Radio.

Jasmine’s extensive stage work includes working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 2002 she appeared in the Trevor Nunn directed, nine hour trilogy THE COAST OF UTOPIA, three sequential and self-contained plays by Tom Stoppard on the Olivier stage at the National.

I caught up with Jasmine  at the Arts Theatre in London a couple of weeks ago where she is currently featuring in the world premiere of the irreverent biblical comedy NOT MOSES. I drew this montage of her recent stage performances which she signed for me.

Drawing: Ian Redford and Trudie Styler in A Dish of Tea with Dr Johnson

styler and redford

Arguably “the most distinguished man of letters in English history” was Dr Samuel Johnson, poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, lexicographer and the man who gave us the English dictionary.

After nine years work, Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755. It was considered on of the greatest single achievements of scholarship and until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary 150 years later was the pre-eminent British dictionary.

He is the subject of A Dish of Tea With Dr Johnson, a sellout at the Edinburgh Festival and a hit on tour.

Ian Redford’s moving central performance in the title role was “detailed and touching”. Johnston “was a man ravaged by melancholy and anxieties but capable of articulate speeches” and “darts of wit”.

Joining Ian as the high society hostess and Johnson’s final unrequited love, Mrs Thrale, was Trudie Styler. She was “dug out of retirement by director Max Stafford-Clark to return to the West End with a part that “instantly won her over… she got to come on stage in an 18th century costume and provide the fireworks fo the last 20 minutes.

Both Ian and Trudie signed my sketch in the lobby of London’s Arts Theatre, prior to the evening performance on 12 September 2011.

Drawing: Anita Dobson and Greta Scacchi

Bette and Joan

Anton Burg’s Bette and Joan played the Arts Theatre in London’s West End from May till June in 2011. It starred Anita Dobson as Joan Crawford and Greta Scacchi as Bette Davis. Based on the real life legendary feud between the two stars, the play shows them at a low point in their careers when they meet on the set of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? which became a surprise hit and propelled them back to stardom.

Both Anita and Greta signed my original and kept copies of the sketch and sent me a thank you letter… so I guess they like it!