The real-life experience of Northern Irish actress Laura Donnelly inspired the plot for Jez Butterworth’s latest hit play THE FERRYMAN, directed by Sam Mendes, which became the fastest selling production at the Royal Court earlier this year and has now transferred to the Gielgud in London’s West End.
The disappearance and murder of Laura’s uncle Eugene Simmons was the basis for this Troubles-era story. She was only a child, but remembers how he was taken away by the IRA, shot and his body dumped in a bog. Laura, best known to TV audiences for her roles in CASULTY, MERLIN and BEOWULF worked with Jez on his play THE RIVER at the Royal Court alongside Dominic West and Miranda Raison and on Broadway with Hugh Jackman.
Laura has attracted high critical praise for her portrayal of the victim’s widow, Caitlin Carney in THE FERRYMAN and signed my drawing of her in the role at the stage door last month.
British actor Anthony Head is probably best known globally as the stuffy Librarian Rupert Giles in TV’s BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, but his stage beginnings were much more elevated, debuting as Jesus in GODSPELL, which lead to his complete role-reversal at the opposite end of the character scale, the sweet transvestite himself, Frank N. Furter in THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at London’s Piccadilly Theatre in 1998. He later claimed his Frank was much more demonic than any of the Franks that went before.
I drew this montage of Anthony which includes him as Frank, Captain Hook in the PETER PAN at the Savoy Theatre in 2003 and his latest outing as Cabinet Minister Sir John Fletcher in Trevor Nunn’s critically acclaimed production of Rattigan’s LOVE AND IDLENESS, which has just completed its run at the Apollo after transferring from the Menier Chocolate Factory. He happily signed it for me at the stage door, after a Saturday matinee last month.
“Americans have different ways of saying things. They say ‘elevator’, we say ‘lift’ – they say ‘President’, we say ‘stupid, psychopathic git'”. One of comic legend’s Alexei Sayle’s infamous and now most apt one liners.
Voted 18th on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-up Comics in 2009, Alexei was a central figure in the alternative comedy movement of the 1980’s. His satirical style was based on cynicism and political awareness. The Emmy-winning British actor appeared in numerous TV shows but he was best known for his involvement in the iconic THE YOUNG ONES alongside Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer and Christopher Ryan. He played a many characters, but his main role was the apparently Russian landlord Jerzy Balowski.
Alexei was doing a few nights of ‘work in progress’ gigs at the Soho Theatre last week so I took the opportunity to meet him and get my drawing signed.
Former World Tennis Number 1, Martina Hingis won her 23rd Major title on Sunday collecting the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles crown with Jamie Murray. She now has twelve women’s doubles, six mixed doubles titles from all the four Grand Slams and has won the singles on five occasions, only missing out on the French, although she was a finalist twice.
She also has an Olympic silver doubles medal from Rio in 2016. In 2005 Tennis Magazine named her the 8th greatest female tennis player of all time. Although I have collected Martina’s graph on a few occasions I didn’t have a signed sketch. Twice I had attempted but had missed the Swiss Miss. But I was lucky enough to catch her at Gate 13 a few days before this year’s Wimbledon Championships started and while she said she didn’t usually sign sketches, was happy to do so this time.
Patti LuPone is musical theatre royalty on both sides of the Atlantic. Since making her professional debut 45 years ago she has played every major role and won every major West End and Broadway accolade, including the Olivier and two Tonys. She’s also collected a couple of Grammys for good measure.
Patti originated the title role of Eva Peron in the 1979 Broadway production of EVITA, picking up her first Tony. She played the part of Fantine in the original London cast of LES MISERABLES in 1985, the same year she appeared as Moll in THE CRADLE WILL ROCK, winning the Olivier for both roles. In 2008 she won her second Tony for portrayal of Rose in the Broadway revival of GYPSY.
Her latest appearance on the Great White Way is as Helena Rubinstein in WAR PAINT at the Nederlander Theatre, which garnered her seventh Tony nom. I sent her this montage sketch in March this year at the theatre and it came back dedicated and signed.
New Zealander Sam Wills and his alter – ego Tape Face found International notoriety last year, reaching the finals of America’s Got Talent, where he was the ‘most buzzed- about’ contestant. Described as a ‘modern day Chaplin’ Sam’s contemporary comedic mime revives silent film acting with a piece of tape over his mouth and the traditional stripped shirt, using facial expressions and body movements to captivate his audiences.
He began performing as an apprentice clown at the age of 13. Sam rarely gives interviews to continue the illusion of not speaking, although he was happy to chat in our antipodean accents with a fellow London-based Kiwi and sign my sketch before his matinee show at the Garrick Theatre where he is resident until 23 July.
ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTTT is the battle chant for the popular and prolific Yorkshireman cricketer and New England captain Joe Root. And there was plenty of it on the opening day of the first test again South Africa at Lords yesterday. It was a ‘dream’ start to his captaincy, scoring a majestic unbeaten century on the hallowed slope at the home of cricket.
It was his 12th test ton and once again rescuing his side from a precarious position. After winning the toss and electing to bat, England were in early trouble at 17/2 when he came to the crease, slumping further to 74/4. But at the close of play, Joe was still there on 184, guiding his team to a satisfying 357/5. However it seems it’s not unusual for English captains on debut to score a century. Joe is the sixth to achieve the feat.
One of the truly nice guys in sport, Joe always has time for his numerous fans and he signed this sketch for me after the historic ODI match against Ireland at Lords last month.
One of Broadway’s genuine musical theatre superstars has finally made her West End debut. Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald made her long awaited London stage appearance last month, reprising her 2014 Broadway role as Billie Holiday in LADY DAY AT THE EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL at Wyndham’s Theatre.
“One legend playing another,” wrote Michael Billington in his Guardian review. Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph said her performance was “pouring divine nectar into your ears; here, beautifully modulated, is all the playfulness, mischief, yearning, sadness and stoicism to be found in those crackling records of long ago.”
Audra is the first person to win six Tonys for acting and the first person to win the award in all four acting categories. She has also collected Grammy and Emmy Awards. Her Tony winners are CAROUSAL (1994), MASTER CLASS (1996), RAGTIME (1998), A RAISIN IN THE SUN (2004), PORGY AND BESS (2012) and LADY DAY (2014).
It was an absolute pleasure to meet her at the stage door a couple of weeks ago as she arrived for the Saturday matinee. She loved the drawing and graciously signed it for me.
On my way to SW19 to catch a few tennis stars practicing for the Wimbledon Championships on Sunday, I detoured to South Kensington to visit the Royal Albert Hall, where one of the biggest names on the planet, Woody Allen, was appearing with his jazz band that evening. My intention was to try and catch him in person or failing that, leave a drawing for him to sign. I gave myself a window of an hour. I had a letter written and a stamped-addressed envelope already to go. What I didn’t have was the sketch. I had plenty of tennis players but I had left Woody on the drawing board. Bugger.
So, not for the first time, I quickly looked up an image on my phone and did this literal two-minute scribble. The concert notes said there would be no set list and the band would go with the Woody flow, described as ‘an energetic collection of improvisation’ …a bit like my drawing.
Woody was labelled “a treasure of cinema” by Roger Ebert, but jazz has been his lifelong passion, playing clarinet from an early age. Apparently his stage name is based on the American clarinetist and Big Band legend Woody Herman. A regular on Monday nights for the past 40 years at the upmarket Cafe Carlyle on Manhattan’s Upper East side, Woody and the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band have been part of the fabric of New York since the 1970’s. When he won his first two Academy Awards in 1978 for writing and directing ANNIE HALL, Woody was not present at the ceremony. It was Monday, 3 April and he was playing jazz. His priority may also have something to do with his dislike of awards and he’s on record saying ANNIE HALL was not his favourite film, which also picked up Best Picture.
Anyway my hasty and rough rendering made it to Woody, as the kind gentleman at the stage door desk promised, because it came back signed and dedicated in two days.
British actor Peter Davison came to prominence as Tristan Farnon in James Herriot’s ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL before becoming the fifth incarnation of the Doctor in DOCTOR WHO. He is coincidently the real life father in law of the tenth Doctor David Tennant.
Apart from his extensive TV work Peter has a distinguished stage career including two of his recent appearances, as Professor Callahan in LEGALLY BLONDE and Herbie in GYPSY, both at the Savoy Theatre in London. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for the latter. I dropped this sketch off at the theatre, having missed Peter a couple of times at the stage door and it eventually came back signed.