Drawing: The Philanthropist at the Trafalgar Studios

Simon Callow directs a brand new production of Christopher Hampton’s most celebrated play THE PHILANTHROPIST at London’s Trafalgar Studios, which opens this week after a fortnight of previews.  It’s a ‘fiendishly clever inversion’ of Moliere’s THE MISANTHROPE, which the writer describes it as a ‘biting bourgeois comedy’, centring on an academic whose morbid compulsion to please everyone has the opposite effect.

After a ‘try-out’ at the Royal Court in London, the play premiered on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in March 1971. It was nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Play. “Christopher Hampton was 23 and it was his first big hit – a stonking success,” said Simon Callow, who has gathered together a young cast, light on theatre experience, but well known to TV audiences.

THE INBETWEENERS star Simon Bird makes his stage debut, joined by Tom Rosenthal, his co-star in Channel 4’s FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER, FRESH MEAT and CALL THE MIDWIFE’s Charlotte Ritchie, BAFTA winner Matt Berry from the IT CROWD and actress-model Lily Cole, who all signed my montage sketch heading in for Saturday’s matinee.

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Drawing: Lily Cole in The Last Days of Troy

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Former supermodel and actress Lily Cole, “excels while making her stage acting debut in Simon Armitage’s stylish The Last Days of Troy“, wrote Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph.

Staged last summer at Shakespeare’s Globe, following a run at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, it has been described by some as a a “highlights package” of Greek history.

The Last Day’s of Troy completes Homer’s Iliad with award winning poet and author Simon Armitages dramatisation, bringing the war to a brutal conclusion. It combined the essentials of Homer’s Iliad, bits from his Odyssey and elements from Virgil’s Aeneid.

Lily played Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world according to Greek myth. While technically not her stage debut, it was her first conventional production.  She previously appeared in the Old Vic’s annual 24 Hour Plays Celebrity Galas in which a group of high profile performers work with writers and directors to create a line up of new plays in just 24 hours.

“The former model, now a humanitarian campaigner is suitably enigmatic. Cole’s performance is deliberately restrained as she glides around the stage in an almost ghostly fashion… her gracious movement and distant stare are just what’s required,” wrote Henery Hitchings in the Evening Standard.

Some in the autograph game have found the same demeanour off stage, but I’ve always found Lily to be pleasant and accommodating on the few occasions I have met her. There’s a big difference between ‘racking’ her with 20 8x10s and asking her to sign a theatre sketch.

Drawing: Lily Cole

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An alumna of King’s College, Cambridge, Lily Cole has had to balance her scholarly activity with her screen and modelling commitments. From appearing on the cover of British Vogue at the age of 16, she has modelled for the world’s leading brands including Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Jean Paul Gaultier and Prada. Paris Vogue listed her as one of the top 30 models of the 2000s.

Lily has appeared in a dozen films with her first lead role as the bohemian Valentina in Terry Gilliam’s fantasy The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009).

A Daily Mirror poll in 2010 voted her the fourth sexiest redhead of all time, behind Florence Welch, Prince Harry and Nicola Roberts. She supports a variety of humanitarian and environmental causes including the children’s charity Global Angels and the Environmental Justice Foundation.

The biro sketch is based on her character Lettuce Leaf in Sally Potter’s murder mystery Rage. It was the first feature film to debut on mobile phones and starred Jude Law and Judi Dench. I left the drawing at the Soho Hotel where Lily was attending the premiere of Dr Parnassus in October 2009, and she returned it signed a month later.