Drawing: Sooz Kempner in Character Activist

In the Autumn of 2013 the delightful stand-up comedian Sooz Kempner developed a series of characters for her blog-style YouTube sketches. She took four of those characters to the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe, entitled CHARACTER ACTIVIST. Before that she did a series of ‘works in progress’, including London’s Leicester Square Theatre. The four characters included Phalydia, a trust-fund, posh Soho It-girl, Nancy Spratt the oldest and revered West End diva, Michelle an Essex WAG and Danielle, Britain’s 4th ranked heptathlete. Late late year Sooz appeared at the Phoenix Club in the den of the Phoenix Theatre, where she signed my montage character sketch.

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Drawing: Micky Flanagan

micky-flannagan

One of the best-loved comedians in the UK today and ‘a working class boy done good’. Micky Flanagan did a series of work in progress shows across London during the Autumn. This provided me with an ideal opportunity to get  this drawing signed… well, should have provided me with the opportunity, especially at the Hippodrome and the Leicester Square Theatre, on the fringe of Chinatown, frequent stalking haunts of mine and only a block apart. I spent an inordinate amount of time back and forth on numerous occasions. Plenty of massage offers, but no Mick, so I mailed it to him and and early Christmas present arrived back signed and dedicated.

His latest Sky1 new series THE MICKY FLANAGAN DETOURS  where he declutter his mind of the big questions that keep us up at night  starts soon and a nationwide 16 venue tour entitled AN’ ANOTHER FING… is scheduled for later this year.

Drawing: Rob Beckett in Mouth of the South

Rob Beckett

I caught up with one of the rising stars of British Comedy, Rob Beckett on Saturday night when he arrived at the Leicester Square Theatre for his final performance of MOUTH OF THE SOUTH after a week long residency. He started stand-up in 2009, appearing in MOCK THE WEEK, LIVE AT THE APOLLO and CELEBRITY SQUARES, making his Edinburgh Festival three years later with his solo show ROB BECKETT’S SUMMER HOLIDAY.

The Guardian described Rob as “A likeable high tempo comic”. Not only is he a likeable comic, but a likeable guy, who happily signed my sketch. Catch Rob over the next few months as he tours the UK with MOUTH OF THE SOUTH.

Drawing: Joseph Morpurgo, Andrew Hunter Murray and Graham Dickson in Austentatious

Austentatious - Boys

In January the girls component of AUSTENTATIOUS signed a drawing for me and last month I left this sketch of the boys – Joseph Morpurgo, Andy Hunter Murray and Graham Dickson at the Leicester Square Theatre where this highly impressive troupe perform an improvised show based on a Jane Austen novel each month.

TimeOut among other mainstream publications gave it five stars calling it “one of the smartest and funniest improv shows out there… performing a completely improvised Jane Austen novel complete with period dress and cello accompaniment with marvellous results”.

This sketch came back in the mail yesterday wth a little note from Rachel, one of the girls, indicating that they looked after the fan mail, “We have to organise the boys with things like this.” So thanks to the girls the set is complete.

Drawing: Anna Morris in It’s Got To Be Perfect

Anna Morris

Character comic and writer Anna Morris, star of ITV’s Bad Bridesmaid and the BBC’s Outnumbered, performed some work-in-progress gigs of her new show It’s Got To Be Perfect at the Leicester Square Theatre and Museum of Comedy before taking it to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

It’s an interactive wedding rehearsal featuring Georgina the Bridezilla, from Anna’s viral YouTube series Georgina’s Wedding Blogs, she’s getting married and it’s got to be perfect… or else.

Currently playing to packed houses at Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms, EdFringeReview wrote, “not only is it funny, it’s interesting, creative and sweet,”

Speaking of sweet, Anna included a promotional love heart candy, when she returned my signed sketch through the mail, which didn’t help the condition of the artwork through the letterbox but left a nice taste in the mouth.

Drawing: Richard Herring in Christ on a Bike and Hitler Moustache

richard herring

“It’s just not for me,” said comedian,writer,blogger and podcaster Richard Herring when he decided not to join the annual mass exodus of comics from London the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Described as “one of the leading hidden masters of modern British Comedy” and dubbed the ‘King of Edinburgh’,performing at 28 of the last Festivals, he has decided to ‘boycott’ it and perform a series of 12 shows at London’s Leicester Square Theatre this month. He told The Independent that the globe’s biggest fringe festival  had “changed so much that it’s unmanageable, exhausting and expensive.” Last year 49,497 artists performed at the event. “It’s overcrowded and over-priced,” he said.

Edinburgh’s loss is our gain. Included in Richard’s dozen at Leicester Square are his classics-Christ On A Bike and Hitler Moustache, ending with the premiere of his new hour-long show Happy Now. Running a little late for Saturday evenings performance of Talking Cock, I managed to grab Richard before he quickly slipped inside, equally quickly scribbling a dedication and his economical sig, saying “Sorry I need to be quick…good,” which could relate to the speed of the task or possibly the sketch.

 

Drawing: Ria Lina in Taboo Raider

ria lina

Comedian, musician, and writer Ria Lina previewed her new show Taboo Raider at the Museum of Comedy in the Leicester Square Theatre before taking it to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival next month. A regular in stand up for the past 14 years both in the UK and internationally, The Guardian said, “I have no doubt she will hold her own so easily that she’ll have a hand free to hold someone else’s too.” Her shows combine stand up comedy and song.

At last years’s festival Ria’s show School of Riason received award nominations and plaudits alike and a commission for BBC Radio 4. A mother of three, Ria based the comedy routine on home schooling her children.

Taboo Raider looks at modern taboos – racism, sexism and discrimination – “not for the faint of humour” warned the show’s publicity material.

With a BSc in Experimental Pathology from St Andrews University, a Masters in Forensic Science and a PhD in Viral Bioinformatics from UCL… it owudld be fair to say Ria’s Creative juices are fuelled by potent cerebral content.

Did I think I’d be a stand up comic? No, I kinda fell into that but it’s been a surprisingly good fit” Ria said in a recent interview with The New Current.

When asked what she wants her audiences to take away from her shows she says “hopefully buy the CD”. Ria signed this sketch at the Leicester Square Theatre. You can vote for Ria’s Taboo Raider poster in the Edinburgh Comedy Poster Awards, or if you’re lucky enough to be in Edinburgh, catch the show.

Drawing: Juliette Burton in Look At Me at the Leicester Square Theatre

Juliette Burton

Award-winning performer and writer Juliette Burton’s solo show LOOK AT ME is an uplifting docu-comedy celebrating body confidence and beauty diversity. It received 5 star reviews from the national press at last years Edinburgh Fringe Festival, following on from her acclaimed debut show WHEN I GROW UP in 2013.The publicity blurb stated that ‘Juliette’s appearance has changed over the years-she’s been a size 4 and a size 20 and just about everything in between”. As an ex-BBC broadcast journalist before switching to comedy,her material is based on exhaustive research. The show incorporates footage of Juliette walking around London in various disguises, including a man, an obese person, an elderly person, dressed-up in alluring attire and in a hijab to test how appearance changes perceptions. Can changing our outsides change who we are on the inside? Is what we appear to be who we really are?

‘Perception is a funny thing…and ‘funny’ is a strange thing to perceive”, wrote Juliette. “As a comedy writer and performer I like making fun of things that I feel angered or frightened by”.

Fellow comedian and comedy writer Mathilda Gregory reviewed the show for the Edinburgh Fringe Guru website and said, “This show succeeds ( and oh, it does succeed) on Burton’s infectious charm. Her performance is totally delightful. I didn’t want to say goodbye to her at the end of the show and it’s her charm, alongside her brutal honesty in revealing her own body battles that make this  show truly remarkable”.

Juliette works closely with a number of organisations, including the facial disfigurement charity Changing Faces,the body image group B.O.D.Y,the eating disorder charity B-eat and she is a spokesperson for the Be Real-Body Confidence for Everyone campaign.

LOOK AT ME  ran for two nights last week at the Leicester Square Theatre in London, where I left this drawing, which Juliette returned, signed and inscribed. She’s appearing at various places around the UK, so go  ‘look at her’ at a venue near you.

 

Drawing: Cressida Bonas in An Evening With Lucian Freud

Cressida Bonas

Known as Cressy to her friends, British actress Cressida Bonas has been described by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein as a “fantastic” acting talent after her debut in Tulip Fever due out later this year. The Burberry model made her theatrical debut in 2014 at the Hay Festival in There’s a Monster in the Lake which was also staged at the Vault Festival in January 2015.

Earlier this month she appeared as Laura in the solo play An Evening With Lucian Freud by Laura-Jane Foley at London’s Leicester Square Theatre, receiving rave reviews. It tells the story of the days when Laura was a PhD student who became a friend of the late artist.

Prince Harry showed his support for his former girlfriend when he was spotted in the audience at one of the performances.

I had to fight the paps and autograph dealers on the first night performance, but managed to get near Cressida and she signed and dedicated this sketch, before quickly leaving the throng.

Drawing: Rich Hall

Rich Hall

A master of a absurdist irony and rapid-fire wit, American comedian and musician Rich Hall mosied into London town last week and set up his stable at the Leicester Square Theatre for a few nights with his virtuoso musical mates.

Nearing the end of a UK Tour, Rich Hall’s Hoedown was described as a, “mash up of music, comedy and gratuitous coloration”.

This coincided with his other ‘West End’ show, 3:10 to Humour, which Rich performed during the month at various venues. Time Out’s description was “a mix of music, comedy, liquor and spent dreams with Richa Hall and his talented band. Tremendous fun”.

The Sun has called him “a comedy phenomenon”. Winner of the 2000 Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe in the guise of his own uncle and red neck alter ego, Otis Lee Crenshaw, a much convicted comedy music singer.

Rich is well known for his TV and radio work, in shows such as QI, Live at the Apollo and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. When not in the UK, Rich goes back to his Montana ranch to write documentaries for BBC4.

With perfect timing, I came out of Leicester Square Station, walked the short distance to the theatre and who should be coming in the other direction? Yes, the man himself. He stopped for the obligatory selfie with a couple, then looked at my sketch and said, “you drew that? Jeez!”. Guilty. I assumed he liked it because he signed it and thanked me.