Drawing: Jeremy Secomb as Phantom and Javert in the same week

Jeremy Secomb

One of my ‘brain gone, leaving no forwarding address’ moments occurred a few weeks back when I was speaking to Ben Forster as he signed my ELF sketch on the final day of it’s run at the Dominion Theatre. Given my many moons involvement in theatre, both on, off and in between stages, I said something so profoundly stupid yet, by a twist of fate I almost redeemed myself. Bear with me.

I asked Ben what he was doing next and he said PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.
‘Which part?” I asked.
“The Phantom” he replied.
“Oh the big one.”
“Yes the big one.”
This is when my wires crossed and I asked,
“Is Jermey Secomb still playing Javert?”
“That’s LES MISERABLES,” he said in his usual very nice manner.
Half mask, brain at half-mast, half wit… find a hole to disappear down.

Anyway this week the moons all lined and some theatrical lunacy occurred that in a perverse way vindicated my stupidly, in my own mind at least. Ben, as the lead Phantom was injured, Scott Davis the standby and Kieran Brown understudy were unavailable, so all of a sudden PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, one of the West End’s major musicals was just…’of the Opera.’

Step in Jeremy, aka Javert, the emergency Phantom, who was familiar with the role, having played it many times around the globe and previously at Her Majesty’s. He literally leaped form the barricades at the Queen’s Theatre down the Haymarket to the secret lair, at the last minute to save the day. Slightly dramatic, but you get the picture.

I just had to do this sketch of Jeremy, who I had previously drawn as SWEENEY TODD and get it signed to commemorate the occasion. On Saturday I headed out on my vindication venture, but which role was he doing and at which royally-named theatre? I found out he was back on the barricades at Queen’s  and showed him this is a little tribute to his brilliance professionalism and Antipodean versatility He remembered my Sweeney sketch and was pleased to be able to graph it for me. My rendered redemption was complete… sort of. Jeremy Secomb was Javert, who played the Phantom. You get the picture.

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‘Teeny Todd’ – Sweeney Todd by Tooting Arts Club, sketch

Sweeney Todd Tooting Arts Club

In the winter of 2014 the Tooting Arts Club staged Stephen Sondheim’s musical masterpiece Sweeney Todd in Harrington’s, London’s Oldest Pie and Mash Shop. The intimate staging of the production in the 106 year old establishment in a Tooting side street had phenomenal success. “Site specific theatre at its very best,” wrote Henry Hutchings in the Evening Standard. Punters congregated at Anton’s Barber Shop before being shown through to Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop for a pie and the performance.

One of those punters happened to be Mr Sondheim himself, who was bowled over by the intensity of the production that he contacted his friend, a certain Sir Cameron Mackintosh, no less, who allowed the TAC to create the West End’s first pop up theatre in a disused nightclub space sandwiched between his more illustrious Gielgud and Queen’s theatres in Shaftesbury Avenue for its revival run until the end of May 2015.

Unlike the epic, star-studded concert version across town at the London Coliseum, the Tooting Arts Club’s tiny 36 seater show prompted Matt Wolf form The Art’s Desk to nickname it “Teeny Todd,” saying it was, “downsized to dazzling effect”.

The Stage’s Mark Stenton simply aid “the smallest and most viscerally intense.” Reviewing Bill Buckhurst’s razor sharp production in the Guardian, Lyn Garnder said of the leads, “Jeremy Secomb’s superbly brooding and cadaver-like Sweeney may give you a very close shave. Siobhan McCarthy is a real treat as Mrs Lovett, self-deceiving and sad as well as comically monstrous”.

Duncan Smith, Ian Mowat, Kiara Jay, Nadim Naaman, Joseph Taylor and Zoe Doano make up the cast on which Hutchings commented, “Theres’ great work throughout the cast of eight… the quality of performances – and especially the voices – is remarkably high.”

I caught up with Jeremy and Siobhan after Saturday’s performance where they signed this sketch.