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.
I drew a quick portrait of British Bafta-winning actress Rebecca Hall with a fine point biro about five years ago, which she signed for me at a screening of THE TOWN at London’s West End Odeon. For this more detailed one of Rebecca as Viola, I used the same pen, but a gazillion more lines. It was in the daze before my current 4B regime. In late 2010, she put her blossoming film career on hold to return to the stage for her father’s anniversary revival of TWELTH NIGHT at the National Theatre. It was Sir Peter Hall’s fourth production of the Shakespearean comedy and Rebecca’s debut at the National, which her father previously ran for 15 years from 1973 to 1988, succeeding the founding artistic director Sir Laurence Olivier. Naturally pleased to see his daughter back on the boards in one of his plays, he said, “If you want to have good theatre you need Hollywood movies because they pay, theatre doesn’t.” Shakespeare casted boy actors to play girls dressed as boys in love with boys. Sir Peter cast his daughter in the same way, “with mysterious and alluring results,” wrote Warwick Thompson in his Bloomberg review.”…a lady who decides to pass for a lad, and who then causes a storm of erotic triangulations.”
Rebecca signed this one for me at the stage door on a fresh February evening. It may have even been the month’s 12th night…maybe not. I think it was a Wednesday, like today,so what better reason to post it.
“Rory Kinnear is a National Treasure”,states The Independent, and they may well be right. Throughout the summer of 2013, the brilliant British actor played the Shakespearian villain Iago opposite Adrian Lester in the title role of OTHELLO at the National Theatre in London. Both won the Best Actor Award at the Evening Standard Awards with Rory going on to win his second Olivier. The Mail’s Quentin Letts wrote it was a “fine performance from Mr Kinnear, who cements his reputation as one of our stage’s stars”.
His last theatre success however was as a playwright with his debut play THE HERD, which opened at the Bush Theatre in September 2013. It was shortlisted for the Most Promising Playwright at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards and has just ended it’s first American run at Chicago’s legendary Steppenwolf Company.
Rory is currently treading the boards, or in this case a 15m long moving ‘travelator’ as Josef K in Richard Jones’s production of Nick Gill’s adaption of Franz Kafka’s THE TRIAL at London’s Young Vic. During rehearsals for the play he was also required for night shoots on the next Bond film SPECTRE, reprising the role of M16’s ever-dependable Tanner. He said he would finish at 5am and then be required at rehearsals between 11 and noon, so sleep was in short supply. A punishing schedule made all the more extreme when he is on stage for the entirety of the interval-free production.
Then, just when you finish a Saturday evening after a long week, looking forward to the Sunday off, you are confronted at the exit by a serial sketcher wanting you to sign a drawing. But, true to form, Rory was his usual amiable self…’Ah, another masterpiece”, he complimented. (Rory actually has a HAMLET sketch I did of him, framed and hanging on his wall at home.) Sleep deprivation I modestly thought.
Billie Piper’s performance as Paige Britain, the ambitious tabloid news editor, garnered unanimous praise when the National Theatre staged Richard Bean’s GREAT BRITAIN last summer. Described by The Telegraph’s theatre critic Dominic Cavendish as “a sultry, stiletto-stamping schemer”, Billie’s character took the lead in a timely look at the tangled relationship between the press, politicians and the police. The play was in secret rehearsals for months and was only announced after the key verdicts in the phone-hacking trial were delivered. It premiered without a preview period on 30 June 2014 at the National’s Lyttelton Theatre. Paul Taylor called it a “farce with fangs” in The Independent, stating Billie’s performance as “excellent”-a description shared by all the major critics.
This sketch is a montage-a page on Paige-so to speak..I mean draw. Billie signed and returned it in the mail.
Playwright Jez Butterworth and director Ian Rickson have formed a formidable team and are considered one of contemporary British theatre’s great collaborators. Jez’s debut play, Mojo, the black gangster comedy set in a Soho nightclub in the 1950s, premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 1995, directed by Ian Rickson who became the resident artistic director from 1998 – 2006, replacing Stephen Daldry.
They have been friends and collaborators ever since, with Ian directing all of Jez’s plays. That includes the smash hit Jerusalem, that was a runaway success at the Court, on West End and Broadway.
I love Jez’s writing and am a huge fan of Ian’s direction. They are both very likeable chaps; always engaging and obliging.
I drew this sketch of Ian and Jez in rehearsals for Mojo, hoping to get both to sign it on press night in November 2013. I managed to get Jez, but couldn’t find Ian, so figured he’d be around through the season. Whenever our paths did cross over the next two years, I didn’t have the sketch on me.
It wasn’t until press night of his most recent play The Red Lion at the National’s Dorfman Stage last week that I had a chance. I had to politely excuse myself at the official gathering in the foyer after the performance. He was his usual friendly self, liked the sketch and happily signed it.