Drawing: Charlotte Spencer in Love In Idleness

Charlotte Spencer

I drew BAFTA-nominated English actress Charlotte Spencer in her role as Christine Keeler in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical STEPHEN WARD, which she signed for me at the Aldwych Theatre back in 2013. She returned to the London stage earlier this year in the Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival of Terrance Rattigan’s LOVE IN IDLENESS, which transferred to the Apollo in May, playing Diane Fletcher, the estranged ‘yet not entirely uncooperative wife” of Tory minister Siri John Fletcher. Charlotte also signed this drawing for me at the stage door.

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Drawing: Tom Hollander in Travesties

Tom Hollander’s welcome return to the stage after a six-year absence has resulted in a Best Actor Olivier Award nomination for his ‘career-best’ performance in Tom Stoppard’s golden oldie TRAVESTIES. The Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival, directed by Patrick Marber, sold out before opening night late last year and transferred to the West End’s Apollo Theatre.  Tom plays the central Henry Carr, who  was a British consular official in Zurich during the first World War and encountered  Russian communist revolutionary Lenin, the founder of Dada, Tristan Tzara and Irish author James Joyce, all of whom were in the city at the time. As a member of a group of actors called The English Players, managed by Joyce, he was cast in the leading role of Algernon in Oscar Wide’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.

In his five-star review, The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish said “Tom Hollander is hilarious in this mind-bogglingly entertaining Stoppard revival”. He went on to write, “Tom Stoppard’s award-winning 1974 comedy finds the man, who memorably described himself as a ‘bounced Czech’ performing such hire-wire feats of linguistic daring that even undertakes an entire scene in the limerick form. And that’s not the half of it: there are exchanges in Russian, outbreaks of nonsense, a super-abundance of allusion, word-play, parodies and to crown it all, a running pastiche of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.” Tom signed my sketch of him as Henry at the Apollo’s stage door last weekend.

Drawing: Abigail’s Party

Abigail's Party

Mike Leigh‘s classic portrait of 1970’s suburbia ABIGAIL’S PARTY had its London revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2012 before transferring to the Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End.

Directed by Lindsay Posner it featured a wonderful cast, with Jill Halfpenny as Beverley, Natalie Casey as Angela, Susannah Harker as Sue, Andy Nyman as Laurence and Joe Absolom as Tony. Normally trying to get a drawing signed by a biggish cast can take more than one attempt. On this occasion it was textbook. A balmy Saturday June evening with only a few well-behaved admirers at the stage door as each of the cast filled out just after final curtain at five minute intervals and happily signed this sketch for me. If only they were all like that.

Drawing: Terrible Advice at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Terrible Advice

TERRIBLE ADVICE premiered at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory in the Winter of 2011 to critical acclaim. The debut play by Saul Rubinek, best-known as Daphane’s boyfriend in FRASIER was directed by Yoda, I mean Frank Oz, long-time collaborator of Jim Henson and the Jedi Master himself.

It was based on the premise that well-meaning friends are never slow to offer advice, but following it can ruin your life. The ‘well-meaning friends’ were Caroline Quentin, Scott Bakula, Andy Nyman and Sharon Horgan who I depicted in this biro sketch and guessed which of the exits they would choose to come out of the converted factory, 180 seater off-West End theatre and restaurant to get it signed. I guessed correctly.

Drawing: David Baddiel in Fame: Not the Musical

david baddiel

Based on our celebrity-obsessed age, British comedian and writer David Baddiel’s solo show Fame: Not The Musical is a two hour show on the perks and perils of fame at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory last summer.

He charts celebrity’s daily experience in what The Guardian’s Brian Logan called the “unglamorous no man’s land between name-in-the-lights self-fulfilment and rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights self-destruction”.

After a 15 year absence from stand up David was tempted back by the absurdity of fame. The show stared life at the Soho Theatre as a ‘work-in-progress’ in March 2013, before taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe, various other venues and ending up at the Menier.

“Stand up is a frightening thing to do if you don’t do it for a long time, but the more you do it, the less you feel the fear” he said.

I met David last week when he returned to the Soho for a four date residency in the upstairs stage with some more intimate work-in-progress material. I said to him, “one of the absurdities of being famous is that people recognise you, draw you and ask you to sign it.” He laughed and said “obviously” and happily complied with my request. I’m not sure if it was a perk or a peril of the fame game.

Sketch: Michael Urie in Buyer and Cellar

Michael Urie

What would it be like to work in Barbara Streisand‘s personal shopping mall in the basement of her Malibu mansion? That is the subject of American actor Michael Urie’s one man show Buyer and Cellar, which just completed a run at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, transferring from New York.

From that one quirky but true premise, New York playwright Jonathan Tolins has created an outrageously funny monologue about Alex More – the sole employee in the music legend’s private collections of antiques, clothes, and toys presented in various boutiques… a “dream refuge”.

Alex is “hired to work in the in the mall and describes his journey from mock merchant to Gypsy acting coach via a ‘religious ecstasy’ in front of the  ‘people dress’ through short sharp and wonderfully witty vignettes” describes Ben Hewis in his four star WhatsOnStage review.

Michael portrays every character from the eccentric and authoritative diva herself to her hubby James Brolin and Alex’s head tossing, vindictive boyfriend, Barry.

The New York Times called it “a delicious target for satire… a featherweight but irresistible play about celebrity false bonding, the solitude of uber-fame and the seductive allure of expensive chintz.”

I interrupted Michael as he was pressing the entry code at the Chocolate Factory’s stage door on the final day of his London season. He didn’t mind the interruption and loved the sketch… as you can see by the dedication, before he went out to work in “Babs basement’.

Sketch: Carly Bawden in Assassins, Menier Chocolate Factory

Carly Bawden

The delightful Carly Bawden has just finished playing a failed murderer in the London revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1990 ensemble cabaret Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Set in a fairground shooting gallery, the musical follows the assassination attempts – successful and otherwise – of 9 presidents of the United States.

Carly plays Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who had President Gerald Ford in her sights before the gun failed to fire. WhatsOnStage called her character, “the wacko follower of cultist psychopath Charles Manson.” Critics were unanimous in praise of her performance, one calling it, “irrepressible”.

After the 26 year old shone in daring shows Pippin (also at the Menier) and in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the Gielgud, Carly’s star turn was her acclaimed leading role in the Kneehigh Theatre’s Christmas production of My Fair Lady at the Sheffield Crucible in 2012.

Under the headline ‘The Lady is a Champ’, Sarah Cockburn called Carly “impressive” on the Culture Vulture site, The Telegraph said, “remarkable” and Variety simply said, “An Ideal Eliza”

I was hoping to get this “Squeaky” sketch signed by Carly. Having missed her earlier, I waited outside the theatre after the final performance on Saturday evening. However, the customary end of the season celebrations were taking place in the font of house Menier cafe. Not wanting to interrupt proceedings, but keen to catch my last train, my best shot was to ask someone to get it to her.

The very kind and helpful Gerry (a staff member) appeared at the side door and designated smoking area. He happily took my sketch in and got Carly to sign it, she then came out to thank me in person.

Sketch: Aaron Tveit in Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Aaron Tveit

American actor and singer Aaron Tveit has just completed his run as John Wilkes Booth, the stage actor who assassinated US President Abraham Lincoln in Stephen Sondheim’s contentious musical Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London.

This razor sharp revival of the Tony award-winning production is a revue style portrayal of the nine men and women who attempted, successfully or not, to assassinate Presidents of the United States, and is directly Jamie Lloyd.

In 2012 Aaron played Enjolras, leader of the student revolutionary group in the film adaption of Les Miserables. He performed with the cast at the 85th Academy Awards the following year. He also stars as undercover FBI Special Agent Mike Warren in the USA Network series Graceland which premiered in the summer of 2013.

I managed to catch up with Aaron as he whizzed past me after his penultimate performance at last Saturday’s matinee. Obviously when fleeing the theatre after killling the most powerful man in the world, one does not linger… but he did long enough to sign my sketch of him in character and engage in a brief chat about his future work.

The show without Aaron finishes on the 7 March 2015.