Gemma Arterton has always been fan friendly and has signed a number of my sketches over the years at premieres and stage doors. She is currently starring as Rita O’Grady in Made In Dagenham – the stage musical about the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968 concerning equal pay for women at London’s Adelphi Theatre.
I had drawn this montage of Gemma from her roles in the films Runner Runner and Byzantium some time ago and had it in my folder, I just so happened to be passing the Adelphi stage door last week when she emerged from and veining performance to catch up with the gathered admirers. I waited, then asked her if she wouldn’t mind signing the drawing, which she was happy to do.
The old adage, ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy person,’ certainly applies to pioneering English theatre director Rupert Goold. The artistic director of London’s Almeida Theatre and associate director at the Royal Shakespeare Company had two hit shows open weeks apart on the West End. After premiering at the Almeida, Mike Bartlett’s controversial play King Charles III transferred to the Wyndham’s Theatre on Charring Cross Road. It confronts the difficult question of what will happen when the Queen dies and a possible constitutional crisis ensues.
Rupert also directs the new musical Made in Dagenham with Gemma Arterton leading a feisty feminist strike force at the Ford auto factory in the east London suburbs. It’s the stage version of the popular feel good 2010 movie and opened on Guy Fawkes night this week.
As is custom, my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a slice of theatre. The precedent is a Shakespeare play, but this year for a slight deviation we went and saw King Charles III, which pays homage to the Bard, written in a blank verse style. I did this sketch of Rupert winning his Olivier a while back. He won the 2008 award for Best Director for the acclaimed Minerva Studio staging of Macbeth with Patrick Stewart in the title role.
It just so happened I had it in my bag that night – the same evening Made in Dagenham had its press night. Another deviation as we strolled to the train station, past the Adelphi Theatre stage door, where only minutes later the said director appeared with a large grin, indicating a successful opening (the show, not his mouth). A good time to get my sketch signed, which he was more than happy to do.
I immediately congratulated him on Charles III, which in hindsight seemed an odd thing to say at the premiere of his other show. That’s what happens when you’re the busiest director in town!
Bond girl and BAFTA nominated Brit actress Gemma Arterton is currently on stage playing Rita O’Grady, the lead in the new musical Made in Dagenham which started previews earlier this month and opens at London’s Adelphi Theatre on 5 November.
Based on the film of the same name, it tells the story of sexual discrimination at the Ford car plant in Dagenham, Essex and the 1968 sewing machinists’ strike in which 850 female workers took on the might of the motoring giant and the corruption of the union supposed to protect them.
Directed by Olivier Award winner Rupert Goold, it is written by Richard Bean with music by Bond composer David Arnold and lyrics by Richard Thomas.
Gemma has always been very generous with signing my theatre drawings, from The Little Dog Laughed at the Garrick, The Master Builder at the Almeida, and The Duchess of Malfi at the Globe. However, after the first Saturday evening performance of Dagenham, the large gathering of ‘graphers at the stage door were told, “programmes and tickets only”.
This was the first time I had sketched Gemma in lead – previously only in ink in various applications – so I was keen to have it signed. True to form, she did make an execption for the sketch and signed it for me. If the audience are anything to go by, the show will be a smash hit. It is booked to run until March next year.