As you may have realised drawing sketches and then getting them signed takes time. Hanging around stage doors in all weather conditions is part of the package. There are a variety of things one can do to pass the time, not all of them worthwhile. Sometimes I get out my little A5 Ryman’s sketch pad and start employing my trusty 4B clutch pencil.
On one such occasion on a balmy summer’s evening, while waiting for Kristin Scott Thomas, Lia Williams and Rufus Sewell to emerge after a performance of BETRAYAL at the Comedy Theatre to sign a cast drawing, I drew this quick portrait of Kristin… manners, Dame Kristin, although she wasn’t a Dame then in 2011. She kindly signed and dedicated both renderings for me.
The Children’s Hour was Lillian Hellman’s first hit play. It premiered in 1934 at Maxine Elliot’s Theatre on Broadway. At the time, any mention of homosexuality on stage was illegal in New York State, but the play was such a success and widely praised that the subject matter was overlooked. A revival was staged at London’s Comedy Theatre in early 2011, directed by Ian Rickson.
It starred Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss as two school mistresses of an all girls boarding school in the 1930s. Their reputations and careers are thrown into chaos when disgruntled student Mary Tilford, played by Bryony Hannah, wrongly claims the two women are having a lesbian affair. It also featured Ellen Burstyn as the evil doting grandmother.
Hannah won rave reviews and an Olivier nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The Times described her as, “a diminutive scowling unknown in a rumpled gymslip who acts the stars right off the stage… the first act is hers and boy does she punch above her weight.”
The Express said her performance, “borders on the brilliant.”
TV viewers will know her as the meek Cynthia Miller in Call the Midwife, and she is currently back on stage at the National in Nick Payne’s Blurred Lines until 22 February.
American playwright David Hirson’s rollicking 1991 play La Bête is a comic tour de force involving Elomire (David Hyde Pierce), a hight-minded classical dramatist who loves only theatre, and Valere (Mark Rylance) a low-born street clown who loves only himself. When the fickle princess (Joanna Lumley) decides she’s grown weary of Elomire’s Royal Theatre troupe, he and Valere are left fighting for survival as art squares off with ego in a literary showdown.
La Bête completed its West End Season from June to August 2010 at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter) before transferring to the Music Box Theatre for a limited two month run on Broadway in September/October that year.
All three stars signed my sketches at the Comedy Theatre in London.
Actress Tara Fitzgerald has appeared in two acclaimed productions on the West End over the last few years. Her theatre pedigree includes playing Ophelia opposite Ralph Fiennes in Hamlet on Broadway in 1994-95, winning the New York Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a play.
I had a continuing schoolboy crush on Susannah York and was lucky enough to see her in Daphne Du Maurier’s September Tide at the then Comedy Theatre in 1994. The production still remains one of my favourites, for both the play itself and the performances, which also included Michael Praed and Hermione Norris. Both Susannah and Michael signed my programme afterwards.
16 years later I waited outside the Leicester Square Theatre to again ask Susannah for her siggy on my sketches. She was appearing in the play Miracle I had just missed her but the others gathered with similar intent. She told them that she wouldn’t be long and that she had just popped out to buy something to eat. Susannah soon returned and appeared quite fragile, almost frightened. But smiled when she saw the sketches and was happy to sign them with her usual strong signature. Subsequently I found out that in actual fact it was her birthday that day. Sadly she only had one more birthday and passed away 6 days after her 72nd birthday of bone cancer. Her obituary in the Telegraph read, “the blue-eyed English rose with the china-white skin and cupid lips who epitomised the sensuality of the swinging 60’s”