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.

Drawing: Freddie Fox and Rupert Everett in The Judas Kiss

The Judas Kiss

Rupert Everett and Freddie Fox proved an inspired piece of casting in Neil Armfield’s critically received revival of David Hare’s 1998 play The Judas Kiss. The production, about Oscar Wilde’s scandal and disgrace at the hands of his young lover Bosie (Lord Alfred Douglas).

It opened at the Hampstead Theatre in September 2012 before a West End transfer to the Duke of York. Rupert’s portrayal of Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was recognised in the theatre awards, nominated for an Olivier, longlisted in the Evening Standard and winning the WhatsOnStage Best Actor gong – voted by over 60,000 theatre goers. Both Rupert and Freddie signed my sketch at the Duke’s in January 2013.