Celia Imrie won the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her role as Miss Babs in the 2005 production of ACORN ANTIQUES: THE MUSICAL at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Celia became known for her television collaborations with Victoria Wood and in 1985 she first played the infamous Miss Babs, the love lorn owner of Acorn Antiques, known for her frequent parodic flirtations with customers and her abuse of her housekeeper Mrs Overall (Julie Walters).
The sketches were a parody on the low budget British soap operas, in particular CROSSROADS, with its low production values, overacting, wobbly sets, appalling dialogue and improbable plots. The West End musical version, directed by Trevor Nunn, which also parodied successful musicals such as LES MISERABLES and CHICAGO premiered in February 2005 and ran for a three-month sell-out season.
Celia recently returned to the London stage to play Goneril in the just completed KING LEAR opposite Glenda Jackson at the Old Vic, where I caught up with her to sign this sketch of her as Miss Babs.
As a proud but nomadic New Zealander living in the UK I couldn’t let this moment go by without some homage to our mighty All Blacks, winning the Rugby World Cup for the third time and the first team to retain the Webb Ellis Cup, beating our noisy neighbours Australia, 34-17 in the final at Twickenham on Saturday.
Since becoming the World Champions in Auckland in 2011, they have only had three loses in 53 matches, holding the Number 1 ranking for the past decade. The world’s media have labelled them the greatest rugby team of all time, some saying the greatest team in the history of sport. “Phenomenal doesn’t do them justice,” one scribe wrote.
Rightly so, they also picked up the Best Team trophy at the annual World Rugby Awards for the sixth successive with legendary playmaker Dan Carter winning Best Player after his mercurial Final and final performance, scoring 19 points with the boot, a fitting end to his unparalleled career.
I drew this image of the Cup with the All Blacks iconic silver fern, leaving space for the team – 31 of them – to hopefully sign… and hopefully the winning team. They arrived at the Tower of London for the official welcome to the tournament six weeks ago. Given the history of the venue, some thought the hosts may have had other ideas.
Knowing the chances of me obtaining the entire team at that event were less than minimal, I delivered it to the AB’s long-time manager Darren Shand, who had helped me in the past with previous requests and as sure as God made little green apples (and the All Blacks) he got the job done, like his team in the World Cup. I just had to mention that again.
Alan Rickman originated the role of Leonard,a caustic professor in Theresa Rebeck’s SEMINAR, which had its World Premiere at the Golden Theatre on Broadway in April 2012. The play revolves around Rickman’s character conducting a ten-week-long writing seminar for four young novelists. I had met Alan a few times and I don’t think signing is one of his favourite chores, but he was very pleasant to chat with.
Many years ago I tried for a graph through the mail and was politely refused by his agent. I sent the sketch, thinking nothing to lose… except the sketch, of course! He was obviously signing at the stage door, but sending stuff to the venues is hit and miss, depending on their policy for unsolicited mail. To my delight the sketch was not only returned, pronto, but dedicated and signed by the other cast members – Lily Rabe, Jerry O’Connell, Hettienne Park and Hamish Linklater. So next time I see Alan, I won’t have to bother him for a sig and can thank him in person.