Drawing: Keir Charles, Gavin Spokes and Stephanie Street in Quiz

Autographed drawing of Keir Charles, Gavin Spokes and Stephanie Street in Quiz at the Noel Coward Theatre on London's West End

Playwright James Graham’s latest triumph QUIZ just finished at London’s Noel Coward Theatre. After a sell-out season at the Chichester Festival Theatre the play about the ‘coughing Major millionaire scandal’ enjoyed an equally successful three month West End run. In April 2003, Army Major Charles Ingram, his wife Diana and their alleged accomplice Tecwen Whitlock, who is said to have prompted him with right answers with tactical coughs, were convicted for cheating on the hit TV quiz show WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE two years earlier. But were they really guilty? The decision is left up to the audience, who become the jury.

The critical response was best summed up by Paul Taylor in the Independent. “With a mix of populism, personal tragedy, politics and even a pub quiz, this is sure to be another hit for a playwright on a roll.”

Gavin Spokes and Stephanie Street played Charles and Diana Ingram, with Keir Charles in a variety of quizmaster roles, including an ‘uncanny’ Chris Tarrant, MILLIONAIRE’s popular host. All three signed my quick sketch on the penultimate Saturday of the run.

Advertisements

Drawing: Milly Thomas in Dust

Autographed drawing of Milly Thomas in Dust at the Soho Theatre in London

‘I’ve been dead for three days. A Woman. A suicide. A choice. A life. A lie. A truth. An ending. Of sorts.’ The brief summary of the 70 minute one-woman play DUST, written and performed by Milly Thomas.

After its award-winning, sell-out run at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe DUST transferred to London’s Soho Theatre for four weeks in February last year. It was one of two plays Milly had running at the Festival, the other was BRUTAL CESSATION. DUST is the story of Alice, a twenty-something, high functioning depressive with a double-edged gift for masking how unwell she is. Alice takes her own life and is forced to watch the aftermath of her suicide and its ripple effect on family and friends, realising death isn’t the change she hoped for. The play serves to open up the conversation about the reality of living… and dying with depression.

“I wanted my play DUST to be a battle cry for life,” said Milly, who wrote it six years ago in response to her own mental health issues. “I was frightened to write it, I knew I would have to perform it”. It was a performance, which won her the Stage Edinburgh Award and described by Evening Standard critic Henry Hutchings as “courageous in portraying vulnerability. Alice is wildly profane who has a flippancy, born of being powerless, in life and death.”

I left this montage sketch at the Soho, which Milly signed and returned for me.

Drawing: Joyce DiDonato

Autographed drawing of opera singer Joyce DiDonato

One of the world’s most celebrated opera singers, American lyric-coloratura mezzo- soprano Joyce DiDonato returned to Covent Garden earlier this month for a one night only recital with the Royal Opera’s music director, Antonio Pappano.

For Opera-lite people, like myself, a ‘lyric-coloratura’ has a light, agile singing voice with a great range, that can reach a high upper extension capable of a fast vocal coloratura, which refers to the elaborate ornamentation of a melody. A ‘mezzo-soprano’ simply means ‘half soprano’, pitched between a soprano (high) and a contralto (low).

Described as a ‘gilt-edged opera star’, Joyce is notable for her interpretations of Handel, Mozart and Rossini, composers who included many roles for lyric-coloratura mezzo-sopranos in their operas. Winner of two Grammy Awards, she made her Royal Opera House debut in 2013 as Fox in Leos Janacek’s THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN and later that year performed in THE LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS at London’s Royal Albert Hall, that included leading the audience in the traditional patriotic piece, ‘Rule Britannia.’

Joyce signed my sketch at the Royal Opera House before the June 4 recital.

Drawing: Frances Barber in An Ideal Husband

Autographed drawing of Frances Barber in An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville Theatre on London’s West EndAutographed drawing of Frances Barber in An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville Theatre on London's West End

One of Britain’s finest actresses Frances Barber continues her impressive and comprehensive theatre repertoire as the blackmailing Mrs Laura Cheveley in the Classic Spring Company’s Oscar Wilde Season production of AN IDEAL HUSBAND at London’s Vaudeville Theatre.

Nominated for two Olivier Awards-CAMILLE (1985) and UNCLE VANYA (1997), Frances plays the femme fatale –”bitingly witty, famously well dressed, cruel, ambitious and above all, duplicitous” and repeatedly described throughout the play as the product of ‘horrid combinations’. She returns from Vienna as a ‘ghost from the past’ to expose and blackmail the much-admired politician Sir Robert Chiltern.

Frances signed my sketch last week at the stage door.

Drawing: Edward and Freddie Fox in An Ideal Husband

Autographed drawing of Edward Fox and Freddie Fox in An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville Theatre on London's West End

For the first time, real-life father and son Edward and Freddie Fox appear on stage, creating a ‘delicious double act’ as fictional father and son Lord Caversham and Lord Goring in Oscar Wilde’s AN IDEAL HUSBAND at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. Dubbed the ‘Fantastic Foxes’ by critics, Edward, the head of Britain’s acting dynasty is joined on the boards by his youngest son Fredrick in what was as much a life decision as a professional one.

“I’ve been offered to do Caversham again,” Edward said to Freddie. “I’ll do it if you do it” …and they both took a walk on the Wilde side. “It was such a wonderful opportunity and emotional to finally act with the old man,” said Freddie. Friends call them ‘Fredward’ and note that a large part of their relationship is verbal jousting, so the play is just an extension of that.

Fellow cast member France Barber told the Evening Standard, “You can see the respect they have for each other and they obviously love working together and enjoying each other… it’s just absolutely joyous.”

Both Eddie and Freddie signed my sketch at the stage door last week.

Drawing: Nathaniel Parker in An Ideal Husband

Autographed drawing of Nathaniel Parker in An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville Theatre on London's West End

British actor Nathaniel Parker’s latest West End role is Sir Robert Chiltern, a rising politician with a secret past in the ‘Rolls-Royce of English comedies’, in Oscar Wilde’s AN IDEAL HUSBAND at the Vaudeville Theatre.

Nathaniel was last seen on the London stage in THE HOUSE at the Garrick two years ago and prior to that in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s acclaimed stage adaption of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning historical novel WOLF HALL and its sequel BRING UPTHE BODIES at the Aldwych Theatre before it transferred to the Winter gardens on Broadway with a title change WOLF HALL, PARTS 1 & 2 for American audiences. His memorable portrayal of King Henry VIII was recognised with both an Olivier and a Tony Award nomination. TV viewers will be familiar with Nathaniel’s lead role in the BBC crime drama series THE INSPECTOR LYNLEY MYSTERIES and as Lord Agravaine in MERLIN.

Nathaniel signed my sketch for me when he arrived at Vaudeville Theatre stage door on Saturday.

Drawing: Audrey Fleurot in Tartuffe

Autographed drawing of Audrey Fleurot in Tartuffe at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on London's West End

French actress Audrey Fleurot, made her West End debut last week in Christopher Hampton’s updated adaption of Moliere’s TRATUFFE at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Small screen fans will know her as Josephine Karlson in the cult French TV series SPIRAL and on larger screens as Magalie in the 2011 International hit film THE INTOUCHABLES. Her extensive theatre work in France includes Luc Bondy’s 2016 production of LE TARTUFFE at the Theatre de l’Odeon in Paris. In both versions of the Moliere classic she portrays Elmire, the wife targeted by a sleazy preacher. The West End reboot of this hard-hitting moral comedy is set in post-Weinstein America.

‘Tartuffe’ translates as ‘hypocrite’ or ‘imposter.’ ” Trump is a Tartuffe,” said Audrey in a recent Guardian interview. The original French productions in the mid 1660’s were banned twice for perceived anti-Catholicism and challenging religious values, but now it has become the most performed French classical play.

She signed this quick portrait for me on Saturday at the stage door.

Drawing: Paul Anderson in Tartuffe

Autographed drawing of Paul Anderson in Tartuffe at Theatre Royal Haymarket on London's West End

Ten years ago South London actor Paul Anderson wasn’t an actor at all, he was a ticket scalper and aspiring musician, who longed to be a lead singer in a band. Then he was inspired to go to drama school- the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.

His break came in 2013 with the role of post World War I gangster Arthur Shelby Jr. In PEAKY BLINDERS. His other TV appearances included DOCTOR WHO, MIDSOMER MURDERS and LEWIS. Major films followed including Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Oscar-winning THE REVENANT and Ron Howard’s IN THE HEART OF THE SEA.

He made his West End debut in the title role of Moliere’s TARTUFFE at the Theatre Royal Haymarket last week. I caught up with ‘Boycey’ as he is known to friends and fans on Saturday at the stage door, where he signed this rehearsal sketch I drew of him for me.

Drawing: Rosalie Craig in The Ferryman

Autographed drawing of Rosalie Craig in The Ferryman at the Gielgud Theatre on London's West End

Award-winning English actress Rosalie Craig is noted for her musical theatre performances, collecting an Evening Standard Award and an Olivier nomination for her role in the National Theatre’s A LIGHT PRINCESS in 2013.

However her last West End appearance as Caitlin Carney was far more dramatic, joining the final cast of Jez Butterworth’s acclaimed new play THE FERRYMAN, about a family living in rural Ireland during the Troubles in the 80’s, which completed its extended run on 19 May at the Gielgud Theatre. It’s a venue that Rosalie will get to know well by the end of the year, returning to the theatre with Patti LuPone in Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY in September.

I left this Caitlin sketch for Rosalie at the Gielgud, which she signed and returned this week.

Drawing: David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd

Autographed drawing of cricketer David "Bumble" Lloyd

The funniest and equally informative British cricket commentator David Lloyd, known as ‘Bumble’ has been the staple diet on the TV broadcast menu since he left the England coach’s job and joined the Sky commentary team in 1999.

His credentials are second to none, having been involved in all aspects of the game. A stellar career with his home county Lancashire, including a four year shift as captain and later as coach, nine tests for England, with ‘a splendidly fluent’ 214 not out in his second test against India, a top ODI score of 116 and later as the National coach after a brief stint as a first-class umpire is a summary of his involvement of the game he knows and loves.

The nickname ‘Bumble’ derives from his similarity to facial profile to Michael Bentine’s children’s TV characters THE BUMBLIES.

I caught up with him as he arrived for the third days play of the England-Pakistan Test match at Lords last Saturday. The home team were struggling. While he was signing my sketch I asked him if the English batsman would save the day he replied, “No show,” which proved correct.