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.

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Sketch: Imelda Staunton in Gypsy

imelda gypsy

Jonathan Kent’s dazzling revival of Julie Styne and Stephen Sondheim’s Gypsy has gathered a galaxy of five star reviews, in particular for Imelda Stunton in the lead role of the legendary Momma Rose.

Transferring from Chichester Festival Theatre, the production has extended its run at London’s Savoy due to huge demand. It is considered by many to be America’s greatest musical, playing Broadway no less than five times, this is the first showing of the celebrated musical in London in over 40 years.

In what Matt Trueman in Variety calls, “a helluva performance… Staunton makes Momma Rose every bit the equal of Willy Loman, Arthur Miller’s doomed salesman, but where he hawks his wares door-to-door, she’s selling her family.”

Tom Eames in Digital Spy simply states “Staunton is ridiculously brilliant as Rose” and Michael Billington in The Guardian says it’s “one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen in musical theatre”.

Sondheim was so impressed with Imelda’s turn as Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd that he insisted she starred as Momma Rose in this revival, often called Broadway’s answer to King Lear, due to Momma Rose’s single minded devotion and delusional attempts to turn her two daughters into vaudeville stars.

When people first see the diminutive Imelda off stage, they are taken aback. One lady whispered to her friend at the stat door after a performance,”how can so much power come out of that tiny person?”

I was told that Imelda was only signing programmes, so out of respect for that I left my sketch with the stage door team with a return envelope. As usual, Imelda sent it back, graphed, a five six star signer.

Drawing: Imelda Staunton in A Delicate Balance at The Almeida Theatre

Imelda Staunton

A Delicate Balance won Edward Albee his first Pulitzer Prize in 1967, followed by the more commercially successful Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The Almeida Theatre’s revival in the summer of 2011 featured Imelda Staunton as the drunken Sister Claire – “Vodka? Sunday? Ten-to-eight? Well, why the hell not.”

This ‘country comedy’ explores the “secret terror that lurks beneath the bland routines of bourgeois life.” Imelda’s performance, as usual, attracted rave reviews. She signed my sketch at the final matinee on the 2nd of July.

My sketch of Imelda in Sweeney Todd is here.

Drawing: Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball in Sweeney Todd

Staunton+Ball001

Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball won every major award in the acclaimed revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd at London’s Adelphi Theatre, including the Olivier for Best Actress and Actor in a musical respectively. They signed this sketch at the theatre for me in May 2012.