‘Two Queens. One in power. One in prison. It’s all in the execution’ …and two exceptional actresses, Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams.
After a sell-out run at the Almeida Theatre, Robert Icke’s new adaption of MARY STUART transferred for a limited run at the Duke of York’s in London’s West End. The political tragedy verse play by Friedrich Schiller, which premiered in 1800 depicts the last days of Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I. Both Juliet and Lia played alternated the roles of the two Queens depending on who called heads or tails.
“Lia Williams and Juliet Stevenson switch roles at the toss of a coin to play the warring queens in Robert Icke’s explosive production,” wrote Susannah Clapp in her five-star Guardian review. Both signed my drawing at the stage door before the run ended on Saturday.
American actor Brian J Smith’s portrayal of Jim O’Connor, the ‘gentleman caller’ in John Tiffany’s celebrated Procyon of Tennessee William’s THE GLASS MENAGERIE has garnered him award nominations on both sides of the Atlantic. He was shortlisted for both the Drama Desk and Tony Awards for the Broadway run at the Booth Theatre in 2013 and this year’s Oliviers after its transfer to London’s Duke of York’s Theatre, which finishes next week. Brian kindly signed this sketch for me a couple of weeks ago and he said he’s staying in London for another William’s play.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.