British actress Gemma Arterton has been the subject for a number of my theatrical renderings and here’s another one. It must have something to do with the fact she has ‘art’ in her name. I drew two sketches of her as NELL GWYNN, one a single portrait and this montage of her as the the celebrated 17th century actress and mistress to Charles II, when she appeared in the Globe’s transfer of Jessica Swale’s play at the Apollo theatre last year.
She signed the portrait there and I was passing the Donmar Warehouse on Saturday and she happened to be outside the front doors signing after the final matinee performance of George Bernard Shaw’s SAINT JOAN after a two-month run. Following her triumph at the Apollo, Gemma’s portrayal of the feminist icon and spiritual warrior was equally acclaimed in the Josie Rourke-directed contemporary production. I also happened to still have this sketch in my folder, which she was happy to also sign.
The World premiere of Jessica Swale’s NELL GWYNNE at the Shakespeare’s Globe transferred to the West End’s Apollo Theatre earlier this year with Gemma Arterton in the title role as the exuberant Nell Gwynn, who rose from lowly orange-seller to England’s favourite actress and mistress of King Charles ll in this hilarious, heart warming production, directed by Christopher Luscombe.
“Gemma Arterton is a sparkling stage presence,” wrote Charlotte Marshall in her London Theatre review.
I did attempt to catch Gemma in person after a couple of Saturday matinee performances, but the stage door management said she didn’t usually leave the theatre between shows, so I left this sketch with them and if came back signed.
Gemma Arterton has always been fan friendly and has signed a number of my sketches over the years at premieres and stage doors. She is currently starring as Rita O’Grady in Made In Dagenham – the stage musical about the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968 concerning equal pay for women at London’s Adelphi Theatre.
I had drawn this montage of Gemma from her roles in the films Runner Runner and Byzantium some time ago and had it in my folder, I just so happened to be passing the Adelphi stage door last week when she emerged from and veining performance to catch up with the gathered admirers. I waited, then asked her if she wouldn’t mind signing the drawing, which she was happy to do.
Bond girl and BAFTA nominated Brit actress Gemma Arterton is currently on stage playing Rita O’Grady, the lead in the new musical Made in Dagenham which started previews earlier this month and opens at London’s Adelphi Theatre on 5 November.
Based on the film of the same name, it tells the story of sexual discrimination at the Ford car plant in Dagenham, Essex and the 1968 sewing machinists’ strike in which 850 female workers took on the might of the motoring giant and the corruption of the union supposed to protect them.
Directed by Olivier Award winner Rupert Goold, it is written by Richard Bean with music by Bond composer David Arnold and lyrics by Richard Thomas.
Gemma has always been very generous with signing my theatre drawings, from The Little Dog Laughed at the Garrick, The Master Builder at the Almeida, and The Duchess of Malfi at the Globe. However, after the first Saturday evening performance of Dagenham, the large gathering of ‘graphers at the stage door were told, “programmes and tickets only”.
This was the first time I had sketched Gemma in lead – previously only in ink in various applications – so I was keen to have it signed. True to form, she did make an execption for the sketch and signed it for me. If the audience are anything to go by, the show will be a smash hit. It is booked to run until March next year.
Gemma Arterton made her professional stage debut at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2007, with huge critical acclaim as Rosaline in Loves’s Labour’s Lost while still a student at RADA. She returned at the beginning of the year to play the title role in the Jacobean tragedy The Duchess of Malfi by English dramatist John Webster directed by Dominic Dromgoole.
It opened the curtain on the inaugural season at the Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – an intimate 340 seat indoor Jacobean theatre, built from authentic designs and craftsmanship of the period. It is named after the director and actor who founded the modern recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The conspiratorial atmosphere is enhanced with the 17th century practice of being lit almost solely by beeswax candles.
The Duchess is one of the great theatrical roles for women and Gemma jumped at the chance to play her on such a magical stage. “It’s like Tarantino,” she said, “there’s mass bloodshed, incest, violence, lots of kick-arse stuff and everybody dies in the end.” Gemma’s own death scene is gruesome. She is strangled with two ropes pulling in opposing directions for nearly ten minutes.