Drawing: Conchita Martinez

Autographed drawing of tennis player Conchita Martinez

Conchita Martinez became the first Spanish player to win the Wimbledon Ladies Singles title, beating Martina Navratilova in the 1994 final. She was also runner-up in the 1998 French and the 2000 Australian Opens.

In an 18 year career, Conchita won 33 singles and 13 doubles titles and was also a member of the successful Spanish team that dominated the Fed Cup during the 1990’s, winning the premier team competition five times. At the Olympics, Conchita won two silver medals and a bronze in doubles, at Barcelona, Athens and Atlanta respectively. She was the part-time coach of fellow Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, guiding her to the Wimbledon Singles title last year.

Conchita signed my sketch of her lifting the silver Venus Rosewater salver after her Wimbledon win at this year’s Championships, where she was a media commentator and a participant in the Ladies Invitational Doubles.

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Drawing: Alex Lawther in The Jungle

Autographed drawing of Alex Lawther in The Jungle at the Playhouse Theatre on London's West End

“The most important play in the West End.” That’s the five-star verdict of critic Dominic Cavendish in his review of THE JUNGLE. “Astonishing. The West End just got a heart transplant,” he said in the Telegraph.

Originally commissioned by the National Theatre, THE JUNGLE is a series of vivid snapshots of life, loss, fear, community and hope in the sprawling refugee camp that existed for a year near Calais on the French northern coastline, known as ‘The Jungle’.

Written by Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, who had first-hand experience of the camp, running a pop-up theatre called ‘Good Chance’ and co-directed by Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin, the production transferred from a sold-out run at the Young Vic last year, across the river to The Playhouse Theatre.

Veteran Guardian critic Michael Billington also gave the production five stars, calling it a “priceless piece of theatre… that moved to the West End with all its vital organs in tact.”

The immersive show has transformed the traditional venue. Audiences can either sit amongst the bustling Afghan Cafe in the stalls or watch from the ‘Cliffs of Dover’ seating in the dress circle. Regarded as one of Britain’s rising stars, twenty-three year old Alex Lawther plays Sam, a ‘brattish, but terrifyingly efficient’ Etonian posh boy. He describes the Jungle as “Glastonbury, without the toilets.”

Alex will be familiar to viewers of the Netflix series THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD and was the young Alan Thuring in 2014 Oscar-nominated film THE IMITATION GAME. I caught up with him to sign this sketch on his last day with the London production, arriving for Saturday’s matinee before he starts a new project. He will rejoin the cast when it transfers to New York later in the year.

Drawing: Jen Kirkman

Autographed drawing of comedian Jen Kirkman

Massachusetts-born, LA-based comedian, podcaster and actor Jen Kirkman brought her THE ALL NEW MATERIAL, GIRL tour to London’s Soho Theatre earlier this year for a sell-out run and returned for a one-night only gig at the Leicester Square Theatre in June.

She does regular stand-up at the Hollywood Improv and The Laugh Factory. On TV she’s a panellist on CHELSEA LATELY and narrates DRUNK HISTORY, while her podcast I SEEM FUN gets 50,000 downloads a month. Jen is a stand-up consultant and writer for Amy Sherman-Palladino’s latest hit series THE MARVELOUS MRS MAISEL, which won two Golden Globes recently and has six Emmy nominations.

In a Guardian interview earlier this year she said, “My fan base tends to be, for want of a better phrase, on the punk-rock side of life, feminists, lesbians, guys who wear nail polish, mums who are really fun and like to drink a lot.” She also said the audiences are different, depending on the day. “Monday’s are more responsive, anyone going out on a Monday must be a die-hard fan. Whereas on Fridays, people have worked all week, they’re tired and angry… and drinking. Friday’s are the toughest, weird energy. Saturday’s are just rowdy, so if you can combine the loyalty of Monday with the rowdiness of Saturday that would be ideal.”

Jen signed my drawing for me at her Leicester Square one show only on 22 June. It was a Friday.

Drawing: Tommy Steele in The Glenn Miller Story and Scrooge: The Musical

Autographed drawing of Tommy Steele in Scrooge: The Musical at the London Palladium and in The Glen Miller Story at the London Coliseum

Britain’s original teen idol and rock ‘n’ roll star, Tommy Steele returned to the London Coliseum, sixty years after he made his stage debut in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA. This time he headlines THE GLENN MILLER STORY for a limited seven week engagement, celebrating one of the world’s best-selling recording artists, legendary American big-band leader, Glenn Miller, who had 23 number 1 hits between 1939-1943.

Tommy was last seen on the London stage in 2012 at the London Palladium as Ebenezer Scrooge in SCROOGE: THE MUSICAL adapted from the 1970 film SCROOGE featuring Albert Finney in the title role. The production was part of a UK and Ireland Christmas season tour between 2003-2013, which also included a run at the Palladium in 2005.

Tommy was included among the British Cultural Icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake in 2012 to appear in a new version of his famous artwork, The Beatles’ SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND album cover to celebrate British cultural figures of the last sixty years. He signed my Glenn Miller/ Scrooge sketch at the Palladium after performing the Saturday matinee a couple weeks ago.

Drawing: Martin Kemp in Chicago

Autographed drawing of Martin Kemp in Chicago at the Phoenix Theatre on London's West End

Spandau Ballet bassist and actor Martin Kemp made his West End debut early last month, taking over from Cuba Gooding Jr as the nefarious lawyer Billy Flynn in the London revival of CHICAGO at the Phoenix Theatre. No stranger to the stage, Martin was last seen in the capital as the legendary record producer Sam Phillips in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at the Royal Festival Hall in 2017.

While discussing his CHICAGO gig in an interview Martin said the playing the West End was always on his list of things to do. “It’s nice to be in the centre of town”, and it’s the first time he’s sung in character on stage. Did Cuba give him any advice? ” Yes , he said,”watch it as many times as you can.”

Although Martin’s ‘Billy’ is a little different than Cuba’s. “That’s the beauty playing Billy Flynn, we all interpret it differently and agrees it’s such a great part. “Billy commands the stage and everything’s in my key. He’s the devil that gets the girls to sell their souls.”

I met him arriving at the stage door on Saturday, where he signed this sketch. “Thanks man,” he said. Martin is scheduled until early September.

Drawing: Mazz Murray in We Will Rock You

Autographed drawing of Mazz Murray in We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre on London's West End

English singer and actress Mazz Murray was the longest-serving member of the cast in the London production of Queen’s rock musical, WE WILL ROCK YOU, joining the original ensemble when the show opened at the Dominion Theatre in May 2002. She took over the principal part of Killer Queen from Sharon D. Clarke in April 2004, remaining until June 2010, becoming the show’s longest-running performer in the role.

She later returned for special two-week farewell season from August 8-2011. In a recent interview, Mazz recalled the Queen’s Jubilee – Elizabeth ll, that is – concert at Buckingham Palace. She got on the wrong coach and ended up walking up the Mall in her PVC cat suit. After the grande finale, the Queen and Prince Charles meet everyone. The Prince leaned into into her and said, “The boys and I saw you walking down the Mall. They were in the car behind me.”

Her other roles include Tanya in MAMMA MIA and is currently Mamma Morton in the London revival of CHICAGO at the Phoenix Theatre. “The good thing about being in musicals,” she continued in her interview, “You’re a superstar on stage for two hours, then you’re in the supermarket the next morning. It’s the best of both worlds, you get your ego massaged, but have a totally private life.” Unless of course you happen to be walking down the Mall in a PVC cat suit in front of a Royal vehicle.

It was great to meet Mazz at the Phoenix Theatre stage door on Saturday when she arrived for the CHICAGO matinee last Saturday, where she signed my sketch. ‘Extraordinarily nice,’ as the lyrics say.

Drawing: Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement – Flight Of The Conchords

Autographed drawing of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement Flight Of The Conchords

Self-styled as New Zealand’s ‘fourth most popular guitar-based digital-bongo acapella- rap-funk-comedy-folk duo’, and ‘retired sex symbols’, Flight Of The Conchords, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are, by global consensus, one of the most successful musical comedy bands on the planet.

As fellow Kiwis… actually as a members of the human race we had to see them perform live, the first time in eight years in the UK. We managed to get tickets to see them at London’s O2. However their big comeback, sold-out arena tour was postponed after a couple of dates, when Bret fell down a flight of stairs, breaking two bones in his hand, “a very rock ‘n’ roll injury” he wrote on his Instagram post.

Bones fixed, the bona fide rock stars rescheduled, adding extra shows. We finally got to the O2 gig on 22 June. “Sorry we’re three months late,” they said in typical Conchordian laid back schtick. Jemaine also apologised for looking ‘older and dustier’, but Bret pointed out that the audience have also put on some years since they last toured “So we’re even.” In London, they did three sell-out shows at the O2 and four at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith.

The O2’s a fortress and nigh impossible to meet the artists let alone get stuff signed. The Apollo isn’t much better, with a reinforced gate protecting the lane to the stage door, but it has an opening. I had also heard that sometimes barriers are erected for after show signing and selfie sessions. I decided to go with an entry rather than exit option and quickly did this sketch, arriving at the said gate just as it was closing after Bret and Jemaine had passed through in a big black van and down to the stage door.

However, while I was muttering the typical antipodean expletive, ‘bugger’ or something stronger, a very accommodating gentleman with a lanyard approached me and asked if he could help. I explained the situation and he promised to pass it on. A month passed, nothing returned. Then yesterday this arrived back in the post. Apologies for thinking the worse of said accommodating gentleman with lanyard… in fact ‘thanks.’

Drawing: Samuel L. Jackson

Autographed drawing of actor Samuel L Jackson

Samuel Leroy Jackson is one of the most prolific film actors on the planet and as a consequence he has the highest-grossing film total of all time it’s a US box office over $5.1 billion, averaging $70.5 million per film and over $12 billion worldwide.

Most will know of at least one Samuel L. Jackson film – he’s been in a fair number – so no need listing them and many of the titles are lengthy, such as CAPTAIN AMERICA: INFINITY WAR, his latest instalment as Marvel’s Nick Fury, head of S.H.I.E.L.D. He was in London a few weeks ago at the Disney premiere of INCREDIBLES 2 at the BFI. Samuel returns as the voice of Lucius Best, known as Frozone, who has the ability to freeze water.

I’d actually had this sketch for a while, I think since a few CAPTAIN AMERICA or AVENGER premieres ago, but no sig-gar! This time I managed to find myself in the right spot on the red carpet on a very hot, sunny Sunday and Samuel signed it for me.

Drawing: Russell Howard

Autographed drawing of comedian Russell Howard

One of the many absorbing things about living in London is that you frequently see well-known people, often referred to as celebrities in mainstream media or ‘targets’ in the tabloids, walking amongst us mere mortals, on the tube or shopping, going about their not-so-well-known business. In general I don’t bother them and visa-versa.

I might occasionally say ‘hi’ or even sometimes, if they are currently in theatre, a complementary comment. Sharpie stalking siggy requests are to be avoided. A few years back, Geoffrey Rush, was walking towards a restaurant and declined one such request from a fan, saying he was not ‘working’ and it was ‘his time’, but would be happy to oblige at the Premiere (THE KING’S SPEECH) the next day. Fair enough. These days the selfie has replaced the siggy, but the principle’s the same. It’s important to acknowledge private and public time.

However on Saturday, one of my favourite comics, Russell Howard, was standing beside me at the traffic lights opposite the Palace Theatre on Charing Cross Road. Last year, I had drawn a sketch of Russell, one of the best selling acts in British stand-up, when he smashed the record for consecutive performances at the Royal Albert Hall, with ten, beating previous holders Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow. He returned to the venue in January this year to host AN EVENING OF COMEDY for the Teenage Cancer Trust, where I had hoped to get my rendering signed, but I missed the opportunity. As luck and a certain trace from my all-too-brief experience as a boy scout would have it, the sketch was still in my folder.

He was heading to the Soho Theatre to see fellow comedian Andy Zaltzman. Same – two things I had in common with, as Time Out called him, a ‘comedy superstar.’ Firstly I thought I had better make sure it was actually him-lot of doppelgängers in these here parts.

“Russell?”.

He confirmed. Then I showed him the sketch-not a usual balmy Saturday evening occurrence, even for a comedy superstar, but he was genuinely, I like to think surprised rather than shocked, followed by low status expletives and was happy to sign it before the little green man flashed and it was time to cross the road.

Drawing: Aidan Turner in The Lieutenant of Innishmore

Autographed drawing of Aidan Turner in The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Noel Coward Theatre in London's West End

Aidan Turner made his West End debut this month as the unhinged Padraic in Michael Grandage’s revival of Martin McDonagh’s brutal black comedy THE LIEUTENANT OF INNISHMORE at the Noel Coward Theatre. Padraic, turned down by the IRA for being ‘too mad’, and unable to be accommodated by any mainstream terrorist organisations, becomes a lieutenant in the INLA, a Republican paramilitary splinter group.

The Evening Standard’s Henry Hitchings called it, “FATHER TED colliding with RESERVOIR DOGS – or perhaps more appropriately Reservoir Cats.” Audiences first meet Padraic pulling out the the toenails of James, a Belfast drug pusher, chastising him for selling marijuana to good Catholic children as opposed to Protestant children, which he deems marginally acceptable. As he is about to slice James’s right nipple off he gets a call that from home that his beloved cat and only friend for the past 15 years ‘Wee Thomas’ is poorly. He breaks down sobbing and decides to immediately return to Innishmore to see his ailing moggy.

‘Wee Thomas’ is in fact dead, head smashed in, brains squeezed out ‘like toothpaste.’ Padraic seeks violent retribution – a sentimental psychopath’s overweening grief for his pet and indifference to human life – setting the tone for the rest of the play. As Henry Hitchings observes he “plays him, not as some wide-eyed barbarian, but as a man endowed with demented innocence.”

“This is TITUS ANDRONICUS played for laughs,” wrote Michael Billington in the Guardian, who said, “Aidan Turner is terrific in this shocking comedy.” A sentiment shared by all.
I met Aidan on a quiet Thursday afternoon, before the run started, as he was leaving the theatre for a brief break from final preparations. We were able to have a very pleasant, uninterrupted chat as he signed this rehearsal rendering, prior to the POLDARK and HOBBIT hoards descending once the season got underway.