Sketch: Helen Mirren in Phèdre, National Theatre

mirren phedre

Dame Helen Mirren returned to the stage in June 2009 after a six year absence to play the title role in Jean Racine’s 1676(ish) tragedy Phèdre at London’s National Theatre.

In the absence of her royal husband Thésée King of Athens, his second wife Phèdre declares her love to Hippolyte (played by Dominic Cooper) the King’s son from a previous marriage.

Described by Michael Billington as a, “powerful and striking production,” Phèdre was directed by the National’s outgoing Director Sir Nicholas Hytner, from Ted Hughes’ gutsy free verse translation replacing Racine’s formal Alexandrine couplets on a vast, stark palace veranda stage under the hard Mediterranean sunlighitng.

On 25 June the play was filmed and broadcast live to over 70 cinemas across the UK and subsequently screened “as live” in over 280 cinemas across the world as part of the NT Live Project.

Always a great signer, Dame Helen signed and happily dedicated this black biro Phèdre portrait montage in person at the European Premiere of Brighton Rock at London’s West End Odeon in February 2011.

See my other Helen Mirren sketches:
This portrait sketch
A sketch from The Audience

Drawing: Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren001

Dame Helen Mirren is a great signer. Depending on the usual equation – the demand divided by the time allocation – she either signs her quickies, which are “H Mirren”, or, if you’re lucky, you get the full “Helen Mirren”.

Over the years she has signed a number of my sketches. On this occasion it was the European Premiere of Graham Greene’s classic crime thriller Brighton Rock at the Odeon West End in February 2011.

My previous drawing of Helen Mirren in theatre as the Queen is here.

Drawing: Helen Mirren as The Queen in The Audience

Helen Mirren Blog

In 2006 Dame Helen Mirren won 29 major awards for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in the film The Queen, including the Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA Awards for Best Actress.

In April this year she once again reprised the role for the stage production of Peter Morgan’s (who also wrote The Queen) world premiere of The Audience at the Gielgud in Shaftesbury Ave.

For the last sixty one years, the Queen has met with 12 Prime Ministers in a weekly audience at Buckingham Palace. Both parties have an unspoken agreement never to repeat what is said… not even to their spouces. The Audience breaks that code of silence and imagines a series of pivotal meetings, charting an arc through the second Elizabethan Age. Prime Ministers come and go through the revolving door of politics, while she remains constant.

The Audience opened to critical acclaim, and is nominated for five Laurence Olivier Awards, including a Best Actress nod for Dame Helen.

She is always very accommodating with autograph requests. If she doesn’t sign in person, the stage-door manager takes material to her. My programme was signed when she was leaving after an evening performance, but I left the sketch at the theatre. When time is limited and there are gazillions of graphs to do, she has abbreviate to ‘H. Mirren” so I was please to get a full signature and the customary wavy underline. I wonder if Elizabeth R will take in the play, after all she and Philip did go to War Horse and did invite Dame Helen to dinner at the Palace in May 2007.