Drawing: Cherry Jones in The Glass Menagerie

cherry-jones

I finally got to meet the Broadway icon and one of America’s greatest stage actresses Cherry Jones on Saturday at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London where the two-time Tony winner makes her West End debut in Tennessee William’s 1944 five-character memory play, THE GLASS MENAGERIE.

Cherry reprises her 2013 Broadway role as the faded Southern belle Amanda Wingfield  in the John Tiffany production which also headlined at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where critics described her performance as ‘sensational’.

“For a woman my age this part is our HAMLET,” said the sixty year-old in a recent interview with WhatsOnStage. She also said that she had been trying to get to Britain all her adult life, “Now I’m in heaven and I want to stay.” TV viewers will know her for her Emmy Award winning role as the US President Allison Taylor in the Fox series 24.

Cherry was having a quick break from an afternoon run-trough on Saturday before the evening performance and I happened to be there at the right time. She was very warm and gracious and was more the happy signed my sketch.

Drawing: Lucy Cohu in Once In A Lifetime

lucy-cohu

After an eight year hiatus, RIPPER STREET’S Lucy Cohu returned to the stage in Andrew Bowell’s psychological thriller SPEAKING IN TONGUES at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre in the Autumn of 2009. She played double roles moving from a seductive wife to a terrified victim. Among her small screen roles was Princess Margaret in Channel 4’s THE QUEEN’S SISTER which earned her Emmy and BAFTA nominations in 2005. Three years later she won an International Emmy playing Liz in the true-life drama FORGIVEN.

Lucy was back on the London boards this Christmas in the classic 1930’s comedy,  often described as  Broadway’s revenge on Hollywood, ONCE IN A LIFETIME at the Young Vic, playing the star-columnist Helen Hobart. I meet her in the last week of the run and she signed this montage sketch for me.

Drawing: Reece Shearsmith in The Dresser

reece-sheersmith-dresser

Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith has been gathering rave reviews for their performances as Sir and Norman respectively in Sean Foley’s excellent revival of  Ronald Harwood’s classic play THE DRESSER, which ends its run at London’s Duke of York’s theatre next week. I drew a sketch of them together and  also individual  character drawings which they both signed at the stage door. This  is Reece in a ‘Norman’ montage  as the officious gate-keeper to Sir’s lair.

In his review, The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish called Reece’s performance as a ‘revelation’ and said, “There’s simply not a line mistimed, a movement misjudged and the particular triumph is that the 47-year-old comic actor takes us from entertaining,surface-polished camp mannerism, lots of limp wrists and arch, waspish asides, to a placed psychological perturbation, no less harrowing  or stirring than the madness that afflicts his employer.”

Drawing: Simon Rouse in The Dresser

simon-rouse-fool

Simon Rouse plays the Fool… and plays the Fool very well in Sean Foley’s polished revival of Sir Ronald Harwood’s classic play THE DRESSER, about ‘Sir’, a veteran Shakespearean and his loyal dresser touring in the shadow of World War Two at the Duke of York’s. ‘an absolute delight’ and a ‘glorious cameo’ are two of the reviewers descriptions of his foolish performance.

Simon’s recent London appearances included JB Priestley’s WHEN WE WERE MARRIED at the Garrick over the Winter of 2010/11 and his role as Gerald in the UK tour of the stage production of Simon Beaufoy’s 1997 comedy-drama film THE FULL MONTY which transferred to the West Ends Noel Coward theatre in 2014. On the small screen Simon devotees will know him as Detective Chief Inspector Jack Meadows in the ITV long-running police drama THE BILL and he popped in CORONATION STREET as Rita’s ex-lover Rusty a few years back.

Anyway back to the Fool. Simon’s actual character is ageing actor Geoffrey Thornton who is part of a ‘war-surplus cast of cripples, old men and pansies’, and makes his debut in KING LEAR as the Fool, keen to impress ‘Sir’. He certainly impressed the critics with The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish writing. “Simon Rouse is memorably awful (no doubt meant in a good way) as the hastily recruited stand-in for The Fool.”

Drawing: Phoebe Sparrow in The Dresser

phoebe-sparrow

British actress Phoebe Sparrow returns to the London stage in Sean Foley’s revival of Ron Harwood’s THE DRESSER after making her debut in FATHER AND SONS at the Donmar Warehouse in June 2014. Phoebe plays the ambitious young actress Irene whose infatuation with ‘Sir’ and his growing reciprocation of her attention undermines Norman’s efforts to keep the company in order. As The Stage critic Mark Shenton  puts it, “she put’s her legs up, to get a leg up.” Fans of the hit TV drama series DOWNTON ABBEY will be familiar with Phoebe’s recurring role as Amelia Cruickshank, Larry Grey’s fiancé.

I caught up with Phoebe after seeing the production at the Duke of York’s Theatre earlier in the month, where she signed this sketch for me.

Drawing: Selina Cadell in The Dresser

selina-cadell

Selina Cadell has, as they say a ‘face that is tantalisingly familiar’. That is because the well known English actress has appeared on stage and the small screen for over thirty years. Her most recognisable role is probably Mrs Tishell, the overwrought pharmacist in a neck brace in DOC MARTIN.  But many will recall her familiar face in JEEVES AND WOOSTER, THE CATHERINE TATE SHOW, FATHER BROWN and VICTORIA WOOD among a whole host of others. She played the vanishing lady herself, Miss Froy in the BBC TV film THE LADY VANISHED. In theatre Selina has an equally long list of appearances, including the Sam Mendes’ acclaimed Broadway production of Anton Chekhov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD and her role as  Maria in TWELFTH NIGHT for the Donmar Warehouse in both London and New York.

She has returned to the West End as the pragmatic and cynical but highly efficient stage manager Madge in Ron Harwood’s classic 1980 play THE DRESSER at the Duke of York’s Theatre. When I asked her to sign this drawing  in the role she said, “How very sweet” and did so.

Drawing: Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith in The Dresser

the-dresser

THE DRESSER, considered Ronald Harwood’s greatest play, returned to the West End this month at the Duke of York’s Theatre with Ken Stott as ‘Sir’ and Reece Shearsmith as his devoted dresser Norman, directed by Sean Foley.

The story of an ageing actor’s personal assistant who struggles to keep his charge’s life together takes place over the course of one night in a small English regional theatre during the Second World War. It’s based on Sir Ronald’s own experience as the dresser for English actor-manager Sir Donald Wolfit who is the model for ‘Sir.’

The Oscar-winning playwright is always puzzled by the play’s popularity. When it opened at Manchester’s Exchange Theatre in 1980 he thought it would only last six weeks. It’s been a long six weeks. The original production transferred to the Queen’s Theatre in London’s West End a few months later before moving to Broadway and in 1983 a film starring Albert Finney as Sir and Tom Courtenay as Norman (who reprised the role in both stage and screen versions) was released. In all formats THE DRESSER was nominated for multiple Olivier, Tony and Academy, BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards.

I caught up with Ken and Reece earlier this week at the Duke of York’s during previews before tomorrow night’s opening and they signed my Dresser drawing for me.

Drawing: Felicity Kendal in Hay Fever

felicity kendall hay fever

Following a successful run at the Theatre Royal Bath and a subsequent tour last year that included Australia, Noel Coward’s Classic comedy Hay Fever returned to the West End with Felicity Kendal in the lead role of Judith Bliss the thespian matriarch of the dysfunctional Bliss family at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre.

I loved Jane Shilling’s description in the Daily Telegraph, “her performance is a positive mille-feuille of theatricality, fading sexual allure and suppressed rage, spun around a cone of pathos.”

Apparently ‘mille-feuille’ – the classic French pastry – is having a resurgence across the UK. It’s the culinary ‘in thing’, hence the analogy… I guess.

After a splendid stage and screen career spanning 45 years, audiences and critics alike have never lost their appetite for one of Britain’s most popular performers.

Quentin Letts gave the production five stars in his Daily Mail review, stating “From the moment Miss Kendal steps through the French windows from the garden (where Judith has been trying to learn flower names) this show is a winner.”

Felicity signed this ‘Judith sketch’ I did going into the theatre for last Saturday’s matinee. As usual she was engaging, discussing the wonderful summer weather. A fellow cast member walked by and said, “wow!” referring to the drawing (I think) and Felicity said “I know!”. Hay Fever is scheduled to run until 1 August 2015.

Theatre Sketch: The Nether

The Nether The Nether – the future term for the internet, offers complete freedom – a new virtual wonderland providing total sensory immersion in a dystopian future. Los Angeles based dramatist Jennifer Haley’s award-winning play, directed by Jeremy Herrin, transferred to London’s Duke of York’s Theatre for a limited 12 week run after a sold out season at The Royal Court. Charles Spencer wrote his review for the Telegraph, “Stanley Townsend is memorably sinister and devious as the owner of the site… in this haunting and highly original modern fairy tale.”

Award winning Irish actor Stanley Townsend plays Sims, who in the guise of Poppa creates The Hideaway where “guests” can do unspeakable things to a 12 year old avatar named Iris. His acting credits include Whistle Blower, Heartbeat, Jonathan Creek, Ballykissangel, A Touch of Frost, The Bill, Ashes to Ashes and Ripper Street for TV and films In the Name of The Father, Happy Go Lucky and Killing Bono.

Included in The Nether’s four Olivier Award nominations was a Supporting Actress recognition for the four ‘young Iris’s’ – Isabella Pappas, Jaime Adler, Perdita Hibbins, Zoe Brough. Zoe left the production to take up her role as Blousey Brown in Bugsy Malone at the Lyric Hammersmith, but I met the other three at the theatre where they along with Stanley signed my sketch.

Drawing: David Calder, The Nether

David Calder

Nominated for four Olivier Awards, including Best New Play, Jennifer Haley’s haunting sci-fi drama about the darker side of the internet The Nether transferred to the West End last month from its sell out run at The Royal Court.

One of the other nominations in Jeremy Herrin’s immaculate production is David Calder for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He plays Doyle, a frail science professor and family man whose alter ego is a prim young nine year old girl called Iris, who hangs out with male visitors and lets them chop her head off as often as they like. Just your average fun night out at the theatre, then.

David’s extensive stage and screen credits include King Lear, Macbeth, Titanic, Hustle, Midsummer Murders and the Bond film The World is Not Enough. “This is mind bending, it’s ingenious and it’s ethically challenging…. superbly cast and stunningly designed.”

After The Nether, which finishes on the 25 April at The Duke of York’s Theatre, David slips back in time, playing Winston Churchill in The Audience at The Apollo.