Drawing: Sam Wills as Tape Face

New Zealander Sam Wills and his alter – ego Tape Face found International notoriety last year, reaching the finals of America’s Got Talent, where he was the ‘most buzzed- about’ contestant. Described as a ‘modern day Chaplin’ Sam’s contemporary comedic mime revives silent film acting with a piece of tape over his mouth and the traditional stripped shirt, using facial expressions and body movements to captivate his audiences.

He began performing as an apprentice clown at the age of 13. Sam rarely gives interviews to continue the illusion of not speaking, although he was happy to chat in our antipodean accents with a fellow London-based Kiwi and sign my sketch before his matinee show at the Garrick Theatre where he is resident until 23 July.

Drawing: The Miser at the Garrick Theatre

the-miser

Moliere’s classic comedy THE MISER has received a liberal adaption by director Sean Foley and co-adaptee Phil Porter in a major revival which started at the Garrick Theatre last week after short runs at the Bath Theatre Royal and Richmond. Griff Rhys Jones plays the Harpagon, the paranoid lead, fanatical about protecting his abundant wealth. He is ably supported by a  splendid comedic cast that includes Lee Mack, Mathew Horne, Ryan Gage and Kathy Wix, who all signed this sketch for me on arrival for the matinee on Saturday.

Drawing: Greta Scacchi in The Entertainer

greta-s

This is the third drawing that Greta Scacchi has signed for me. The first two were graphed when she starred in BETTE AND JOAN alongside Anita Dobson at the Arts Theatre in 2011. The Emmy-winner has returned to the West End in the last play of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s productions at the Garrick. John Osbourne’s venomous 1957 play THE ENTERTAINER. Greta plays Phoebe, the sad wife of Sir Kenneth’s  clapped-out Vaudevillian Archie Price. The Independent’s Paul Taylor wrote in his four-star review, “Greta Scacchi vividly captures the touchiness and squally mood-swings of Archie’s weary, put-upon working class wife.” Greta was running a little late for Saturday’s matinee, but graciously stopped to sign for three of us waiting at the stage door, including this sketch of her as Phoebe and a younger portrait, which I identified when she asked me who the second person was? She smiled and signed.

Drawing: Sir Kenneth Branagh – Plays At The Garrick

ken-branagh

For the past year Sir Kenneth Branagh and his theatre company’s creative home has been the Garrick Theatre on London’s Charing Cross Road. The ‘Plays At The Garrick’ debut season has now entered its final chapter with John Osborne’s THE ENTERTAINER, featuring Sir Ken in the lead role as the failing music-hall performer Archie Rice. He appeared in four of the six productions and co-directing three with Rob Ashford.
My montage sketch depicts him as Archie, hit-man Ralph in THE PAINKILLERS and  Leontes, the King of Sicily in Shakespeare’s THE WINTER’S TALE. I caught up the the theatrical knight himself as he arrived at the stage door on Saturday morning, as usual, hours before the matinee and signed it for me. I asked if there would be another residency next year and he replied. “As Mr Schwarzenegger would say, we’ll be back.”

Drawing: Lily James as Juliet

Lily James

I couldn’t resist doing another sketch of Lily James as Juliet, currently starring in the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s ROMEO AND JULIET as part of the Plays At The Garrick season in the iconic London venue. Matt Trueman wrote in his Variety review, the fawnlike James is “beautifully expressive, stretching the verse like silly putty…”

Lily signed this second drawing for me last week after an evening performance. The production on 13 August.

Drawing: Zoe Rainey in Romeo and Juliet

zoe rainey

Northern Irish actress Zoe Rainey is appearing in her second Shakespearian production of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s season of Plays at the Garrick, playing Romeo’s mum, Lady Montague in ROMEO AND JULIET. Earlier this year she played Emilia in the tragicomedy THE WINTER’S TALE. Prior to that Zoe had worked with Kenneth in  the live action remake of Disney’s CINDERELLA and will be seen next year in another live action adaption of an animated classic, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, also playing a maternal role, this time Belle’s mother. Her extensive stage career includes WICKED at the Apollo, GUYS AND DOLLS and PARADE at the Donmar Warehouse and the World Premiere of FINDING NEVERLAND at the Leicester Curve.

Zoe signed this sketch leaving the Garrick after an evening performance of R&J last week.

Drawing: Marisa Berenson as Lady Capulet

Marisa Berenson Lady Capulet

When Marisa Berenson signed my portrait sketch a couple of weeks ago I promised to return with a drawing of her as Lady Capulet-her role in the Kenneth Branagh Company’s ROMEO AND JULIET which is currently running at the Garrick Theatre in London.

Gracing the cover of every magazine during the seventies Marisa was one of the world’s most in-demand and highest paid models. Now, in her sixties she makes her West End debut as Juliet’s mother,not a model parent. The detached and superficial Lady Capulet’s relationship with her daughter is not a close one and Marisa’s portrayal was described by Quentin Letts as “nicely stiff appearance” in the Daily Mail.

I caught up with the very engaging Marisa at the Garrick stage door on Friday afternoon as she arrived for the evening performance and she was happy to sign this sketch for me as well.

Drawing: Meera Syal in Romeo and Juliet

Meera Syal

In another life when I trod the boards, I once played Peter in the Bard’s classic romantic tragedy ROMEO AND JULIET. Not a major character, but the one charged with adding comic relief to the sad tale – the story of my life.

Peter was the loyal servant of Juliet’s Nurse, a major character who acts as a go-between for Romeo and Juliet and is the only person besides Friar Laurence to know of the star-crossed lovers’ wedding. I say this as a feeble intro and my loose connection to the Nurse, a major role in Shakespeare’s archetypal love story.

Meera Syal plays the Nurse in the Kenneth Branngh Company’s latest revival at the Garrick Theatre in London. The comedian, writer, playwright, singer, journalist, producer and actress is probably best known for her portrayal as one of Britain’s most loveable Indian personalities, Sanjeev’s grandmother Ummi in THE KUMARS AT NUMBER 42.

Meera signed this sketch for me as she arrived for Saturday’s matinee.

Drawing: Lily James in Romeo and Juliet

Lily James

Young English actress Lily James’s star continues its meteoric rise with the title role in Shakespeare’s tragic tale of young star-crossed lovers, ROMEO AND JULIET as part of Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s Plays at the Garrick season in London.

Already well known for her roles are Lady Rose Aldridge in ITV’s period drama DOWNTON ABBEY, for which she and the ensemble cast have won two Screen Actors Guild Awards and this year’s BBC drama series WAR & PEACE, Lily is no stranger to the stage. After graduating from London’s The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2010 she quickly appeared in a variety of prominent plays, including the modern version of Chekhov’s THE SEAGULL at the Southwark Playhouse and as Desdemona in OTHELLO alongside Dominic West at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. The Daily Mail’s Quentin Lett’s wrote “…she practically sweeps all before her as Desdemona, poise, diction, allure – she has them all.”

I managed to position myself in a good place at the Garrick’s stage door barriers after the first night performance last Thursday, where initially two security officers were in attendance and soon joined by a third after he had finished his duties at Kit Harington‘s meet-and-greet one street over at the Duke of York’s. Obviously they were anticipating a large gathering and that proved to be the case. Eventually, both Lily and her ‘Romeo’, Richard Madden, who was also her Prince Kit in Disney’s 2015 live-action version of CINDERELLA appeared and Lily signed and dedicated this sketch for me.

Drawing: Tom Conti in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell

Tom Conti Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell

JEFFREY BERNARD IS UNWELL was a  famous one-line apology on a blank page in the respected British magazine, The Spectator, when the infamous columnist and constant soak Jeffrey Bernard was either to drunk or hung-over to produce the required copy for his LOW LIFE column. It is also the title for Keith Waterhouse’s hit play and loving tribute to the legendary Soho drunk, which premiered in the West End at the Apollo Theatre in 1989 with Peter O’Toole in the title role. He also revived the part in the sell-out run at the Old Vic ten years later. Peter was followed by Tom Conti, who also revived the role at the Garrick Theatre in 2006.

According to the playwright, Jeffrey Bernard was born in 1932 – probably by mistake. He had few friends at school, preferring to sit at the back of the classroom, playing with himself. He left, a chain smoker with no worthwhile academic qualifications. In 1946 Jeff paid his first visit to Soho and from that point he was never to look forward, finding himself in his element as a registered layabout in the cafes and pubs of Dean and Old Compton Streets. It was here that he ‘developed his remarkable sloth envy and self-pity.’

He failed at a number of odd jobs, including a disastrous stint as a barman, which was to lead to his chaotic life of alcohol abuse and ‘chronic unwellness’.

A sycophant, he mixed with the famous Soho residents including Dylan Thomas and Francis Bacon and by chance became a journalist firstly for ‘Sporting Life’ before establishing himself as one of the funniest columnists in British journalism. He was the first racing correspondent to write from the point of view of the loser, a stance that was to become the basis for his future writing.

He once wrote the following, which summed up his existence. “I have been commissioned to write an autobiography and I would be grateful to any of your readers who could tell me what I was doing between 1960-1974.”

Tom signed this appropriately chaotic sketch I drew of him in his role as Jeffrey Bernard at the Garrick, which he signed for me at the Park Theatre last week during his season in THE PATRIOTIC TRAITOR.