Nigerian-born British actor Chukwudi Iwuji (usually shortened to Chuk), was sent to an English boarding school at age 10 while his parents worked for the UN in Ethiopia. He studied economics at Yale University before going to drama school then returned to the UK and became a stalwart of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His one ambition was to play HAMLET with them, but that opportunity came last year when he played the Danish Prince at New York’s Public Theatre in a three-week run after a tour of prisons, homeless shelters and senior citizen’s venues. The previous year he was also in the Big Apple in Christopher Marlowe’s TAMBURLAINE THE GREAT at the Theatre for New Performance. Both roles were captured in my sketch which Chuk signed for me at the Barbican while he was appearing in OBSESSION opposite Jude Law.
Rory Kinnear’s portrayal of Hamlet in the 2010 production at The National Theatre is considered by many of the theatrical great and good to be a generation defining portrayal of the Great Dane. It was the National’s former artistic director Nicholas Hytner’s first time directing Shakespeare’s most famous play. His Denmark is a modern dress production set in a surveillance state.
The Independent’s David Lister called it , “a chilling production that demanded to be seen”. He said, “A great Hamlet is not only a Hamlet of this time, it can be a Hamlet that defines his time”.
“Kinnear shows a Hamlet whose depression can be seen in fits of unwarranted aggression, withdrawal, manic high pitched laughter, intense unhappiness or simply desperate attempts to make sense of anything “. He won the 2010 Evening Standard Sward for his portrayal. He was praised for a his, “bold reinvention of the Dane”.
Lister makes special mention of Clare Higgins, “revelatory Gertrude… predicatably, the marvellous actress redefines the role. Gone is the weak, lovestruck pliable and guilt ridden mother and wife. This is more realistically a woman who will have a drink when it suits her, is more than capable of barking out orders herself and knows exactly what she wants out of life”.
Not always an easy place to catch cast members, given the many exits available at the National Theatre, I was very fortunate to catch both Rory and Clare who loved the sketch and were more than happy to ‘graph it for me.
I had also drawn this biro portrait, which is actually one of my favourites, which Michael also signed.
Hamlet was directed by Ian Rickson and is set in the secure wing of a psychiatric hospital and features original music by PJ Harvey. The Telegraph declared Michael’s performance, “could be up there among the great Hamlets” and the Evening Standard said, “an audacious achievement that will live in the memory”.
He was really nice and took time to chat and ‘graph in The Cut Bar as he headed to the stage door for an evening performance. I was watching Stephen Frears’ The Queen the other night in which Michael stars as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and remembered I had this other sketch.
Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre’s gender-bending 2014 production of Hamlet featuring the impressive Maxine Peake in the title role will be hitting the big screen soon.
Filmed over three nights, the sell out radical re-imagining of the Bard’s number one work will hit an estimate 200 cinemas in the UK next month.
The demand for tickets was so great, that the season was extended and became the theatre’s fastest selling show in a decade with over 75.000 people seeing it. Maxine can also currently be seen in the award-winning Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything.
“Peake’s gender ambiguous portrayal fascinatingly amplifies that element of the text,” The New Statesman’s Mark Lawson said.
Maxine is the Associate Artist at the Royal Exchange – a venue she has been with since her childhood and was a member of its Youth Theatre. Maxine is also a familiar face to small screen viewers. She was nominated for a BAFTA for her roles in the BBC One’s The Village and Handcock and Joan and also starred in the legal drama Silk, Shameless and as Myra Hindley in See No Evil.
I waited at the Royal Court Theatre stage door on a chilly Friday evening last week to meet Maxine in person, after a performance of How To Hold Your Breath. It was worth the wait. Maxine was a really nice person and kindly signed and dedicated my sketch. I asked her if she will be staging Hamlet in London. She said “nobody wants it. ” I’m sure that will change…
Outstanding thespian Rory Kinnear has been shortlisted for two Evening Standard Theatre Awards – Best Actor for his astonishing portrayal of Iago opposite Adrian Lester (also nominated) in the National’s Othello. He has also got the nomination for the Most Promising Playwright for The Hero at the Bush Theatre.
The award winners will be announce this Sunday (17 November 2013) at the Savoy Hotel in London.
Rory kindly signed my sketch of him in Hamlet with a nice dedication at the National Theatre in October 2010. I gave him a copy and he said he had it framed and hanging in his home the day he got it.
Michael Sheen’s performance as the Great Dane in Ian Rickson’s controversial production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet was described by critics as ‘bonkers and brilliant’. The bard’s longest and most famous play was set in a mental institution.
Michael is one of the nicest people in entertainment and was very generous with his compliments and time as he signed my sketch in the Cut Bar at the Young Vic Theatre in November 2011.