Drawing: Jodie Comer in PRIMA FACIE

Autographed Drawing of Jodie Comer in Prima Facie on West End

“West End debuts don’t come much more astonishing than this solo tour de force by Jodie Comer,” wrote The Telegraph’s Chief Theatre Critic Dominic Cavendish in his five-star review of the 90 minute, one-hander PRIMA FACIE, which ran this spring at the Harold Pinter Theatre, for a sold-out nine week season. The BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning actress plays Tessa Ensler, a brilliant barrister, who specialises in defending men accused of sexual assault, until she is raped by a colleague. It was only her second ever stage role, the first in Scarborough, thirteen years ago when she was 16, playing Ruby in THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

“The KILLING EVE star makes a masterful West End debut in Suzi Miller’s play about sexual assault and the legal system,” said the Guardian’s Arifa Akbar. The Evening Standard’s Nick Curtis wrote, “We all wanted to know if she’s as good live on stage as she is on screen. And the answer is no: she’s better.”

“Comer evolves the character as the play goes on, twisting Tessa’s charismatic confidence into traumatised, fidgety panic-duality expressed in the publicity poster, which overlays an image of a self-satisfied lawyer-mode Comer into one of her letting out an anguished scream… and she plays all the other supporting roles… we watch her slip between the prim prosperity and rounded vowels of Tessa’s Cambridge Professors to the crotch-scratching arrogance of policemen and Elton-boy drawl of her peers among many others,” wrote Yasmin Omar in her Curzon Cinemas review for the NT Live screening of the production in movie theatres.
Jodie will make her Broadway debut at the Schubert Theatre later this year when the production transfers to New York.

She kindly signed my sketch at the Pinter stage door after her final performance on 18 June where hundreds of fans gathered, fifteen deep.


Drawing: Danny Dyer in The Dumb Waiter

Autographed drawing of Danny Dyer in The Dumb Waiter at the Harold Pinter Theatre on London's West End

A “propa nawty geezer” is how one interviewer described the parts English actor Danny Dyer is famed for, the  generic ‘hard man-with-a-heart’. He returned last month to the West End stage as a killer in Harold Pinter’s THE DUMB WAITER, which was part of the Pinter Seven double bill with A SLIGHT ACHE.

It concluded the PINTER AT THE PINTER season, Jamie Lloyd’s ambitious box-set approach to all of the Nobel Laureate’s 21 one-act plays over the past 21 weeks at the theatre named after him.

THE DUMB WAITER, written in 1957 is set in a basement of a Birmingham restaurant, where two cockney hit men, Gus and Ben are preparing to execute an unknown victim as a dumb waiter (a shelf on pulleys) descends from above with food requests. Danny played Ben alongside Martin Freeman as Gus.

Jamie said that Danny, who had a close friendship with the playwright was one of Harold’s favourite actors and considered him a protégé “There were no airs and graces about Harold,” said Danny, “I learned so much from him that set me up for the rest of my career.”  THE DUMB WAITER is Danny’s fourth Pinter play. He met Harold in 1999, who cast him as the waiter in CELEBRATION at London’s Almeida Theatre, which transferred to New York’s Lincoln Centre in 2001 as part of the Harold Pinter Season. He followed that with the role of Foster in NO MAN’S LAND at the National Theatre and in 2008 as Joey in THE HOMECOMING back at the Almeida.

Danny’s breakthrough came in 1997 in the cult film HUMAN TRAFFIC as the mad raver Moff. He later said in a Guardian interview that it wasn’t much of a transition “That role was me. I was still living it then. It was the only audition where the first question was “Do you take drugs?” I said, “Yes, I love drugs.” They said, ‘Perfect.”  Since 2013 he has played The Queen Victoria pub’s landlord Mick Carter in the BBC TV soap EASTENDERS, winning three National Television Awards.

I left this sketch of Danny as Ben at the stage door on the final day of the PINTER AT THE PINTER season and it came back signed and dedicated with a nice inscription.

Drawing: Toby Jones, Zoe Wanamaker, Stephen Mangan, Pearl Mackie, Peter Wight and Tom Vaughn-Lawlor in The Birthday Party

Autographed drawing of Toby Jones, Zoe Wanamaker, Stephen Mangan, Pearl Mackie, Peter Wight and Tom Vaughn-Lawlor in The Birthday Party at the Harold Pinter Theatre on London's West End

Many happy returns to Harold Pinter’s ‘comedy of menace’, THE BIRTHDAY PARTY as the starry West End revival opened last month. The play turns 60 this year and to celebrate at the theatre that is bearing the playwrights name, Sonia Freedman and seasoned Pinter-director Ian Rickson have assembled a wonderful cast for this British classic.

Famously savaged by all but the Sunday Times after the legendary London premiere in 1958, it has now grown to become one of Pinter’s most famous and most performed works. It’s a disturbing portrait of life in a run-down seaside boarding house on the southern English coast where piano-player Stanley Webber (Toby Jones) lives, run by Meg (Zoe Wanamaker) and Petey (Peter Wight) Boles, who arrange a party to celebrate their lodger’s birthday. The flirtatious Lulu, target of Stanley’s lust (Pearl Mackie) joins them, followed by two sinister strangers, Goldberg (Stephen Managan) and McCann (Tom Vaughn-Lawlor).

Critic Dominic Cavandish, in his five-star Telegraph review “rejoices in the play’s undiminished power to disconcert.” It has all the Pinteresque elements, ambitious identity, confusions of time and place and dark political symbolism.

I left my sketch with Toby at the Pinter stage door on Saturday and he along with the rest of the cast very kindly signed it for me.

Drawing: Toby Stephens and Lydia Leonard in Oslo

Autographed drawing of Lydia Leonard and Toby Stephens in "Oslo" at the Harold Pinter Theatre on London's West End

OSLO tells the story of two maverick Norwegian diplomats who coordinated top secret talks that inspired seemingly impossible friendships leading to the groundbreaking Oslo Peace accords in 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the State of Israel. JT Rogers play opened last year at the Lincoln Centre in New York, winning the Tony Award. The London production opened at the National Theatre for a brief and sold out run before transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End. Toby Stephens plays Terje Rod-Larsen and Lydia Leonard, his wife Mona Juul, the Norwegian diplomats who orchestrated the Peace accord between Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO’s Yasser Arafat. Both Toby and Lydia signed my sketch a couple of weeks ago at the Pinter stage door.

Drawing: Andrew Scott in Hamlet

After a sell-out run at the Almeida Theatre, Richard Icke’s acclaimed adaption of Shakespeare’s HAMLET transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End in June with BAFTA and double Olivier-winner Andrew Scott as the Danish Prince.

In her five-star Guardian review, Kate Kellaway called the production “an all-consuming marvel. Andrew Scott’s prince proves a brilliant communicator.”

Andrew signed my drawing for me after I left it at the stage door.

Drawing: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

“This is one of those rare occasions when play, performance and production perfectly coalesce,” wrote Michael Billington in his five-star Guardian review of Edward Albee’s landmark 1962 marital-crisis drama, WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? at London’s Harold Pinter Theatre. The latest West End revival, directed by James Macdonald, stars Imelda Staunton, Conleth Hill, Luke Treadaway and Imogen Poots. All four along with the production received rave reviews from every major critic after it’s opening this week. Billington summed them up. “Imelda Staunton brilliantly embodies Edward Albee’s campus Medusa in the shape of Martha. Conleth Hill matches her every inch of the way as her seemingly ineffectual husband George.

This is, however a team show and the young couple are excellently portrayed.  Luke Treadaway as Nick combines the golden arrogance of youth with the smug disdain of the scientist for a battered old humanist like George. Imogen Poots in her West End debut, strikingly shows the child-like Honey, switching between awed delight in the older couple’s outrageousness and a growing awareness that she herself is a victim of Nick’s contempt.”  The four cast members signed my drawing as they arrived for the Saturday matinee last weekend.

Drawing: Anna Chancellor and Nicholas Farrell in South Downs / The Browning Version

The Browning Version

2011 marked the centenary year of Terence Rattigan’s birth and celebrations of his work swept the UK. One Telegraph critic labelled it, “an outbreak of Rattigan-worship”. Considered one of the most influential dramatists of the 20th century, Sir Terence’s works include The Winslow Boy, The Deep Blue Sea, After The Dance and The Browning Version.

The latter, his one act masterpiece written in 1948, was part of a mouth watering double bill with South Downs, David Hare’s contemporary response, written at the invitation of the Rattigan estate.

Both examine life in a boarding public school and revolve around unexpected acts of kindness, one from the perspective of a pupil and the other from that of a teacher. The Browning Version is based on Rattigan’s classics teacher at Harrow, and Hare wrote South Downs using his days at Lancing College as a backdrop.

Following a sellout run at the Chichester’s Festival Theatre Minerva Stage, it transferred to the West End’s Harold Pinter Theatre in April 2012 for a three month season. Both pieces featured Anna Chancellor and Nicholas Farrell as leads. In South Downs, Anna plays Belinda Duffield and Nicholas is the Rev. Eric Dewley. In The Browning Version, Nicholas plays the despised departing teacher Andrew Crocker-Harris and Anna his unfaithful wife, Millie.

All the mainstream print media gave it no less than four stars. Charles Spencer in The Telegraph wrote “I gave it a rave review and five stars (at Chichester). Seeing it again on its transfer to the West End, it strikes me as an even greater achievement than it did then. If South Downs is a very good play then The Browning Version is an disputably great one. Nicolas Farrell’s performance is extraordinary and there is wonderful support from Anna Chancellor.”

Both Anna and Nicholas signed this montage sketch of both their respective characters at the Pinter stage door in July 2012.

Nicholas actually apologised for the slight variation in his usual autograph, correcting the initial spelling of his Christian name because he was “distracted by looking at the excellent sketch” while signing.

Sunny Afternoon Sketch

Sunny afternoon

It turned into a great night for Sunny Afternoon at last week’s Olivier Awards, when the musical based on the early life of English rock musician Ray Davies and the formation of the band The Kinks stole the show with four gongs including Best New Musical.

Formed in Muswell Hill, London by brothers Dave and Ray Davies with Pete Quaife in 1963 The Kinks rose to fame during the mid-60s and were part of the British Invasion of the US. They are considered one of the most important and influential rock groups of that era. Throughout its 32 year run, The Kinks songs occupied top positions on the UK charts with hits including Lola, You Really Got Me, Waterloo Sunset and Sunny Afternoon.

Written by Joe Penhall with music and lyrics by Ray, Sunny Afternoon, The Musical’s title is based on the 1966 UK singles chart number one of the same name. It made its world premiere in 2014 at the Hampstead Theatre where it enjoyed critical and commercial success with a sell out limited run before transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End.

At the Oliviers Ray won the Outstanding Achievement in Music Award along with John Dagleish (as Ray) for Best Actor in a Musical and George Maguire (as Dave) for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical, which was deserved but not expected.

I met both John and George on a somewhat chilly overcast afternoon yesterday, but they brightened the day singing my sketch and some very complementary comments – two of the nicest guys I’ve met in all the time I’ve stalked stage doors, I congratulated both on the their Olivier success and George said, “it was great… I guess the underdog won.”

Drawing: Absent Friends at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Absent FriendsA superb revival of Alan Ayckbourne’s  Absent Friends, a comedy about bereavement and the death of love was staged at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London during the spring of 2012. Directed by Jeremy Herrin, the critically-acclaimed production had a stellar cast in alphabetical order, David Armand, Elizabeth Berrington, Katherine Parkinson, Steffan Rhodri, Reece Sheersmith and Kara Tointon – all of whom signed my sketch. Usually with larger casts it takes a few visits to the stage door to complete the set, but on this occasion the ‘graph god was smiling and as they all arrived for a saturday matinée on a sunny mid-april afternoon, one at a time in perfect procession, my mission was accomplished.


Drawing: Sian Phillips in The Importance of Being Earnest at The Harold Pinter Theatre

Sian Philips

The ageless Siân Phillips made her Shakespeare Theatre Company debut as Oscar Wilde’s ‘dragon of propriety’ in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Lansburgh Theatre in Washington this year. It’s a role she is currently playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End. Well, in reality she plays a member of the amateur Burbury Company of Players rehearsing the role of Lady Bracknell.

She made her first appearance on the London stage in 1957 as a student, appearing in Hermann Sudermann’s Magda for RADA to critical acclaim. It provided the launching pad for her long and distinguished career, which has included Oliver and Tony nominations and a TV BAFTA win for Best Actress in I Claudius and How Green Was My Valley.

In his review for the Express, Neil Norman states, “Phillips is one of the Lady Bracknells I have ever seen, skirting caricature without embracing it, she encapsulates the low venality of the high born.

I based the drawing on one of Scott Suchman’s numerous publicity stills for the Washington Production. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of Siân’s favourite shots.

“Oh, that’s from that bad photo of me.” I picked it because of the ‘expression’ which I though really captured the character – my explanation offered in mitigation and hope. But she was good humoured about it and signed and dedicated it for me on her way into last Saturday’s matinée.