Throughout the summer of 2014, the superb BAFTA-winning and double Olivier nominated actress Helen McCrory played the title role in the National Theatre’s production of Euripides’s MEDEA on the Olivier stage.
It’s one of the most terrifying characters in Ancient Greek tragedy – a sorceress who kills her own children – and it requires, if you will forgive me, a killer performance’, one which Telegraph critic Charles Spencer called Helen’s “performance of her career.”
Helen of course is no stranger to playing screen villains, her most notable being Narcissa Malloy in the final three HARRY POTTER films. For her role as MEDEA she won the Critics Circle Theatre award for Best Actress.
I left this drawing at the National for Helen to sign which she did and returned it to me with a note saying ‘what beautiful sketches.’
Michelle Dockery returned to the National Theatre late last year to play the role of the ambitious TV producer Diana Christensen in the stage adaption of Paddy Chayefsky’s blistering satire NETWORK, which completed its repertory run last Saturday. After making her professional stage debut in 2004, Michelle earned an Olivier nomination five in 2009 for her supporting role as Maroussia in the National’s production of BURNT BY THE SUN. On the small screen her five year portrayal of Lady Mary Crawley in the popular TV period drama DOWNTON ABBEY, earned her a Golden Globe and Emmy Nominations. She kindly came to the stage door between shows on Saturday to sign and pose for photos and I managed to get my drawing graphed and dedicated.
OSLO tells the story of two maverick Norwegian diplomats who coordinated top secret talks that inspired seemingly impossible friendships leading to the groundbreaking Oslo Peace accords in 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the State of Israel. JT Rogers play opened last year at the Lincoln Centre in New York, winning the Tony Award. The London production opened at the National Theatre for a brief and sold out run before transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End. Toby Stephens plays Terje Rod-Larsen and Lydia Leonard, his wife Mona Juul, the Norwegian diplomats who orchestrated the Peace accord between Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO’s Yasser Arafat. Both Toby and Lydia signed my sketch a couple of weeks ago at the Pinter stage door.
Bryan Cranston made his London stage debut as Howard Beale, the mad prophet of the airways to rave reviews in NETWORK on the Lyttelton boards at the National Theatre this month.
Based on Paddy Chayefsky’s brilliant script for the Oscar winning 1976 film, Bryan plays the aging news anchor who threatens to kill himself on live TV, becoming an instant crazed celebrity guru yelling the iconic slogan, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
Bryan won a Tony for his portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson in ALL THE WAY on Broadway and is the winner of six Emmys and 2 Golden Globe Awards for his celebrated role as Walter White, the chemistry-teacher-turned-drug-lord in the hit television show BREAKING BAD. He also earned BAFTA and Oscar nominations for TRUMBO in 2015.
Bryan signed my sketch at the National Theatre stage door last week.
The ‘colossus’ of British theatre, theatre, opera and film director Sir Peter Hall died this month. In their obituary, The Times wrote that he was “the most important figure in British theatre for half a century.”
Sir Peter ran the National theatre from 1973-1988 and founded the Royal Shakespearian Company in 1960. The National Theatre said that Sir Peter’s “influence on the artistic life of Britain in the 20th Century was unprecedented.
I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Peter on a few occasions at theatre press nights before he retired from public life in 2011. He was always a delight. In March 2010 he attended the opening night of PRIVATE LIVES at London’s Vaudeville Theatre, starring Kim Cattrall. After the show he went backstage and signed for me leaving via the stage door.
British actor Peter Firth will be known to TV viewers as Sir Harry Pearce in the BBC spy series SPOOKS – the only cast member to appear in every episode of its ten series. My favourite role however was his stage and subsequent film appearance as the disturbed equine-worshipping teenager Alan Strang, who blinds the eyes of horses in Peter Shaffer’s EQUUS, which ran at the National Theatre in London in 1974 and transferred to Broadway the following year, earning him a Tony nomination.
In 1977 he reprised the role for the film adaption, opposite Richard Burton who played the psychiatrist Dysart attempting to find the root of Alan’s equine worship. He won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Academy Award. EQUUS is one of my favourite plays and I had the honour of meeting its author and the privilege of directing it in New Zealand many moons ago. I left this sketch of Peter as Alan with London agent and was very pleased to get it back signed.
Twenty-eight year-old London-born actress Karla Crome is currently receiving excellent reviews for her portrayal of Mozart’s shrewd and sharp-witted wife Constanze in Michael Longhurst’s revival of Peter Shaffer’s AMADEUS on the Olivier stage at the National Theatre. Writing in the Radio Times, Claire Webb said that Karla was “superb.” Her small screen credits include Sky Atlantic’s HIT & MISS and regular Jess on E4’s MISFITS. In 2012, Screen International named her as one of the UK Stars of Tomorrow.
Karla is also an accomplished playwright. IF CHLOE CAN was presented by the National Youth Theatre and the award-winning MUSH AND ME premiered at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe.
I found an intriguing piece of trivia in her Q&A on the Theatre’s website. Karla was asked about any pre-show rituals, and she replied she always does vocal warm-ups by singing ten nursery rhymes through a straw. “It’s not a good look, but I swear by it.”
I left this sketch at the National, where she signed it for me, in clutch pencil, which is also unusual.
The Guardian’s influential critic Michael Billington called the National Theatre’s latest revival of Sir Peter Shaffer’s acclaimed play AMADEUS, “a stunning piece of theatre,” and said Lucian Msamati’s performance in the key role as the sensational villain Antonio Salieri, the established court composer obsessed with rival Mozart, with music and ultimately with God was “following in the footsteps of Paul Scofield. Ian McKellen, David Suchet and Rupert Everett, Msamati is an excellent Salieri.”
The British-Tanzanian actor and playwright is best known on the small screen for his role as Salladhor Saan in the HBO series GAME OF THRONES. His extensive stage career includes becoming the first black actor to play Iago in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of OTHELLO in the spring of 2015. Directed by Michael Longhurst, AMADEUS runs in repertory on the Olivier stage until February next year. I dropped this sketch into Lucian’s London agent and he signed and returned it with a complementary dedication.
The favourite to win this week’s Olivier Award for Best Actress is Denise Gough for her exceptional performance as a recovering addict in Duncan Macmillian’s PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS. She has already won the Critics’ Circle Award. A year ago, the Irish actress was out of work and contemplating quitting acting. She applied for a cleaning job and auditioned for the play at the National Theatre, winning the lead role. It opened on the National’s Dorfman stage last September to rave reviews and a sell-out season, transferring to the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre this month for a twelve week run.
“The extraordinary Denise Gough electrifies as a raging, terrified addict” wrote Susannah Clapp in her Guardian review.
Denise signed my sketch at the Wyndham’s stage door prior to Saturday’s matinee. Oh and apparently she didn’t get the cleaning job, which was just as well really.
Gathering a cluster of four star reviews from every major British critic, Stephen Beresford’s debut play THE LAST OF THE HAUSMANNS ran at the National Theatre in London in the latter half of 2012. Directed by Howard Davies, it featured Julie Walters as high society drop-out Judy Hausmann with Rory Kinnear and Helen McCrory as her wayward offspring Nick and Libby.
The darkly humorous family drama ‘explores the fate of the revolutionary generation and offers a funny, touching and at times savage portrait of a family full of longing that’s losing its grip’. I’m a huge fan of all three and was very pleased to receive my signed sketch back after leaving it at the stage door.