If you’re ever feeling a bit downcast, a couple of minutes with the absolutely delightful Susan Hampshire, who celebrated her 81st birthday recently, will take your blues away. I was feeling rather chipper in fact when I met Susan, one of my all time favourite actresses at the Vaudeville stage door last week, but felt even better after our brief encounter.
Susan is back on the London stage as Lady Markby in Jonathan Church’s star-studded revival of Oscar Wilde’s glittering comedy AN IDEAL HUSBAND. After an initial run at the Theatre Royal Bath last year, the production, settled into the Vaudeville Theatre in May for a two month residency as part of Classic Spring’s year-long Wilde season.
In his Guardian review, Michael Billington wrote, “Susan Hampshire brilliantly turns the gossiping Lady Markby into an unquenchable social gusher.” Paul Taylor, in the Independent continued the compliments, “Susan Hampshire is an absolute delight as Lady Markby, wittering away about modern manias in an hilarious tour de force of empty-headed high society prattling.”
My two-minute conversation with Susan included mutual admiration for each other’s artistic prowess, as she happily signed this character drawing I did of her.
Autographed drawing of Frances Barber in An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville Theatre on London’s West End
One of Britain’s finest actresses Frances Barber continues her impressive and comprehensive theatre repertoire as the blackmailing Mrs Laura Cheveley in the Classic Spring Company’s Oscar Wilde Season production of AN IDEAL HUSBAND at London’s Vaudeville Theatre.
Nominated for two Olivier Awards-CAMILLE (1985) and UNCLE VANYA (1997), Frances plays the femme fatale –”bitingly witty, famously well dressed, cruel, ambitious and above all, duplicitous” and repeatedly described throughout the play as the product of ‘horrid combinations’. She returns from Vienna as a ‘ghost from the past’ to expose and blackmail the much-admired politician Sir Robert Chiltern.
Frances signed my sketch last week at the stage door.
English actress Sally Bretton has returned to the London stage as the ‘too virtuous to be true’ Lady Chiltern in Oscar Wilde’s AN IDEAL HUSBAND, the penultimate production in Dominic Dromgoole’s year-long Wilde season at the Vaudeville Theatre.
Last seen as Goneril in KING LEAR at Shakespeare’s Globe a decade ago, Sally plays the adoring wife who believes she has found the ‘ideal husband’ in the upright and incorruptible politician Sir Robert Chiltern. But he harbours a dark secret.
Sally will also be known to TV viewers as Lucy Adams in NOT GOING OUT with Lee Mack and as Martha Lloyd in DEATH IN PARADISE. She signed my quick sketch at the Vaudeville stage door last week.
For the first time, real-life father and son Edward and Freddie Fox appear on stage, creating a ‘delicious double act’ as fictional father and son Lord Caversham and Lord Goring in Oscar Wilde’s AN IDEAL HUSBAND at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. Dubbed the ‘Fantastic Foxes’ by critics, Edward, the head of Britain’s acting dynasty is joined on the boards by his youngest son Fredrick in what was as much a life decision as a professional one.
“I’ve been offered to do Caversham again,” Edward said to Freddie. “I’ll do it if you do it” …and they both took a walk on the Wilde side. “It was such a wonderful opportunity and emotional to finally act with the old man,” said Freddie. Friends call them ‘Fredward’ and note that a large part of their relationship is verbal jousting, so the play is just an extension of that.
Fellow cast member France Barber told the Evening Standard, “You can see the respect they have for each other and they obviously love working together and enjoying each other… it’s just absolutely joyous.”
Both Eddie and Freddie signed my sketch at the stage door last week.
British actor Nathaniel Parker’s latest West End role is Sir Robert Chiltern, a rising politician with a secret past in the ‘Rolls-Royce of English comedies’, in Oscar Wilde’s AN IDEAL HUSBAND at the Vaudeville Theatre.
Nathaniel was last seen on the London stage in THE HOUSE at the Garrick two years ago and prior to that in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s acclaimed stage adaption of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning historical novel WOLF HALL and its sequel BRING UPTHE BODIES at the Aldwych Theatre before it transferred to the Winter gardens on Broadway with a title change WOLF HALL, PARTS 1 & 2 for American audiences. His memorable portrayal of King Henry VIII was recognised with both an Olivier and a Tony Award nomination. TV viewers will be familiar with Nathaniel’s lead role in the BBC crime drama series THE INSPECTOR LYNLEY MYSTERIES and as Lord Agravaine in MERLIN.
Nathaniel signed my sketch for me when he arrived at Vaudeville Theatre stage door on Saturday.
Dominic Dromgoole’s ‘compassionate and emotionally engaging’ production of A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE launched a year-long season of Oscar Wilde at London’s Vaudeville Theatre late last year.
The outstanding cast was lead by Eve Best, Anne Reid and Eleanor Bron, who played Mrs Arbuthnot and Ladies Hunstanton and Pontefract respectively. The Irish playwright’s 1983 society play examines the hypocrisy of Victorian society in which woman are shamed and stigmatised for their sexual conduct and men do as they please.
I met Eve, Anne and Eleanor at the stage door, where they signed this montage, arriving for the Saturday matinee a week before the production completed its run on 30 December.
Multi-award winning English actress, Emma Fielding was part of an impressive ensemble in Oscar Wilde’s A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, which completed its run on Saturday after kicking-off the Oscar Wilde Season at London’s Vaudeville Theatre over the festive period. She played Mrs Allonby, who delivers a brilliant monologue about what makes an ideal man in a venue that is tailor-made for the production. “It’s the type of theatre the play’s written for with the traditional proscenium arch,” she said in a recent interview. I caught up with Emma and the cast arriving for a Saturday matinee a couple of weeks ago where she signed my sketch.
Lindsay Posner’s production of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, a classic comedy of political blackmail and corruption played London’s Vaudeville Theatre during the festive season of 2010.
Wilde gave the funniest lines to Lord Arthur Goring. SOme have suggested that the character with his similar wit and fashion to be based on the playwright himself. The ‘dandy’ was portrayed by Elliot Cowan, with his fancy threads and wayward habits, which critics agreed made “a splendidly lived in hero”.
He is engaged to Miss Mabel Chiltern, who, at half his age, is play by Fiona Button, “…whose silken repartee flowed as elegantly as her skirts”.
Her line “An ideal husband! Oh, I don’t think I should like that,” sums up her innocence. Both Fiona and Elliot signed this black biro sketch amongst the snow flurries at the uncovered Vaudeville stage door.
Rupert Everett and Freddie Fox proved an inspired piece of casting in Neil Armfield’s critically received revival of David Hare’s 1998 play The Judas Kiss. The production, about Oscar Wilde’s scandal and disgrace at the hands of his young lover Bosie (Lord Alfred Douglas).
It opened at the Hampstead Theatre in September 2012 before a West End transfer to the Duke of York. Rupert’s portrayal of Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was recognised in the theatre awards, nominated for an Olivier, longlisted in the Evening Standard and winning the WhatsOnStage Best Actor gong – voted by over 60,000 theatre goers. Both Rupert and Freddie signed my sketch at the Duke’s in January 2013.