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.

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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.

Drawing: Nigel Havers in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Nigel Havers

The quintessential English charmer, Nigel Havers is 62, and returns to a role he played at 26 in Oscar Wilde’s classic farce The Importance of Being Earnest at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London. Wilde’s masterpiece has some additional material added by Simon Brett as a framing device to enable older actors to play younger roles.

Nigel originally player Algernon Moncrieff in Peter Hall’s 1982 production at the National alongside Martin Jarvis, who also reprises his role as Jack Worthing.

The latest re-imagining revolves around The Bunbury Company of Players, an amateur troupe of veteran thesps performing a dress rehearsal. In one of the added lines, someone suggests that the ageing roué is not really an actor, Nigel’s character quips, “that’s true of so many who make a living at it.” And he has made a good fist of it over a 30 year career playing smoothies, gentlemen and cads, in such films as A Passage to India, Empire of the Sun and Chariots of Fire, plus a string of small screen roles – his latest being the charismatic con-artist Lewis Archer in Corrie.

Nigel is always on the go. On the number of occasions our paths have crossed he has definitely taken the fast lane. But, he always has time to sign. Just as well he has a swift siggy to complement his famous charm.

Drawing: Neil Morrissey and Caroline Quentin in Relative Values at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Neil Morrissey Caroline Quentin

Neil Morrissey reunited with his men Behaving Badly co-star Caroline Quentin for the first time since the series ended 16 years ago.

He took over from Rory Bremner as the butler Crestwell in Noël Coward’s Relative Values revival for the final month of its run at the Harold Pinter theatre in London.

Caroline was already playing Moxie, a senior maid in the play about the clash between English aristocracy and Hollywood. It’s the same theatre Neil made his stage debut in Kay Mellor’s A Passionate Woman in 1988. I caught up with both of them last week at the Pinter Stage door where they were more than happy to sign the sketch.

Drawing: Patricia Hodge in Relative Values at Harold Pinter Theatre

Patricia Hodge

“I always wanted to perform, but I was terribly nervous, which creates a barrier between you and the audience” British actress Patricia Hodge said of when she first tread the boards at the Bush Theatre in the mid-seventies. She obviously broke that barrier at the small, intimate theatre and went on to a stellar stage and screen career.

Best known to TV viewers as Phyllida (Trant) Erskine-Brown, the “Portia of our Chambers” in John Mortimer’s Rumpole of the Bailey, who usually sided with Rumpole, eventually becoming a QC and then a judge. She also featured in BBCs Miranda from 2009-2013.

After earlier  nominations, she eventually won the Olivier Award in 2000 for Best Supporting Actress in Money.

Patricia is currently at the Harold Pinter Theatre in Noel Coward’s Relative Values directed by Trevor Nunn until this weekend (21 June). She signed my sketch after last night’s performance.

Drawing: Mojo, starring Brendan Coyle, Rupert Grint, Daniel Mays, Ben Whishaw, Colin Morgan and Tom Rhys Harries

mojo

The first major revival of Jez Butterworth’s Olivier award-winning black comedy Mojo is currently in previews at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London. The original production directed by Ian Rickson opened at the Royal Court Theatre in July 1995 prior to a sell out West End run in 1996.

Two of Britain’s great theatre collaborators, Jez and Ian reunite for this staging after their hit sensation Jerusalem and the critically acclaimed The River in recent years. A subsequent film adaption featuring Harold Pinter himself, was directed by Jez in 1997.

Set against the fledgling rock’n’roll scene of 1950’s Soho, the savagely funny play delves into the sleazy underworld and power games of London’s most infamous district. It features a stellar ensemble cast, Brendan Coyle, Rupert Grint (making his stage debut), Daniel Mays, Ben Whishaw, Colin Morgan and Tom Rhys Harries. The first performance was on Saturday evening (26 October) which I was lucky enough to get a £10 ticket for (standing in the balcony). I returned on Monday with my sketch which all the cast signed at the stage door. Mojo opens 13 November and will run to 25 January 2014.