The brilliant British actress Kathryn Hunter was born Aikaterini Hadjipateras in New York to Greek parents fifty-nine years ago and raised in England where she trained at RADA.
The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer once described her as “…diminutive in stature and slightly lame, she has a deep, guttural voice, eyes like black olives and the most expressive of faces.”
In 1991 she won an Olivier Award for her portrayal of the millionaire in Friedrich Durrenmatt’s THE VISIT. When reviewing Samuel Beckett’s FRAGMENTS at London’s Young Vic in 2008, The Guardian’s Andrew Dickson said that Kathryn “crams into a few minutes of stage time more than most actors achieve in a career.”
Her ‘uncommon ability to shape shift’ has led her to play roles typically reserved for male actors. In 1997 she was the first British female actor to play KING LEAR professionally and four years later she lead an all-female cast in RICHARD III at Shakespeare’s Globe.
For most of September this year, the ‘master of transformation’ performed ten roles in an hour at the Young Vic, including the title character, Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie in the world premiere of THE EMPEROR in what The Sunday Times declared, “her shape-shifting brilliance could be the stage performance of the year.”
I managed to catch up with her after the final matinee, which is no mean feat in itself as her boundless energy is not restricted to the stage. She was moving quickly looking for a friend, but did stop momentarily to thank me for this drawing I did of her as the Plantagenet King and sign it.
Martin Freeman made his Shakespearean debut on the London stage, transforming from a friendly Hobbit to a villainous sovereign in Jamie Lloyd’s vigorous, contemporary production of Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios last summer. ‘Ricardian’s’, as the medieval monarch’s modern-day followers are called, believe in the revisionists version of the last English King to fall in battle, which is in sharp contrast to the figure portrayed in the Bard’s version. Since supposedly finding his remains under a Council car park in Leicester and the pomp and pageantry surrounding the reburial, 529 and a half years after his demise, the stocks of the last Plantagenet ruler have risen appreciably. Archaeologists and academics have reconstructed the face of the skull and said he had much kinder features, therefore he couldn’t have been a tyrant. I kid you not.That’s of course if the car park bones are really Richards. Many believe they are not. So I guess casting Bilbo Baggins with his genial guise as the bloodthirsty antagonist ‘slashing his way through the family tree en route to the throne’ allowed for some options if required. A Tolkien gesture one could say. In the end, Martin played it as Wills intended (albeit shorter for modern attention spans) and played it well during the limited three month run.
I drew this sketch of Martin in the royal role, but never actually joined the hordes at the post-performance rituals. It stayed, along with others in my ‘pending’ folder, ready to be activated and penned when future opportunities warranted. One such moment came a few months ago as he left the Donmar Warehouse as an audience member and he stopped to sign for a small horde. This is when I realised I should have revised my filing system in the said pending folder to allow me to find the necessary item within the restricted timeframe. I could have got him to sign Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Robert De Niro, or even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sketches though. It was only after he had left that I found his drawing. On Saturday evening he attended the BFI London Film Festival Awards. I had already got Cate earlier at the Truth premiere, so that eliminated one obstacle in my file. Plus I had the Richard III ready and when he emerged at a quarter past the witching hour with his agreeable face on, I got it graphed.
BAFTA winning British actress Gina McKee is currently starring opposite Martin Freeman in Richard III at London’s Trafalgar Studios. She made her Hampstead Theatre debut in early 2013 playing Viv alongside Anna Maxwell Martin and Tamzin Outhwaite in Amelia Bullmore’s comedy Di and Viv and Rose. It dealt with the vagaries of friendship among a group of co-habitating women – three students at a northern university in the early 1980s.
In 2010 she appeared as Goneril in King Lear at the Donmar Warehouse with Derek Jacobi and directed by Michael Grandage. She received an Olivier nomination for her performance.
This year she reunited with director Jamie Lloyd to play Queen Elizabeth in Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios, whre she signed my sketch this week. The play runs until 27 September 2014.
I had the pleasure of witnessing one of the best stage renditions when I saw Robert Lindsay performing the title role in Richard III at the Savoy Theatre in 1999. I drew this sketch, but it wasn’t until Robert was appearing in Onassis at the Novello eleven years later that I actually got it signed… and a cryptic quip from the Shakespearean heavyweight.
The enigmatic multi award-winning actor, Kevin Spacey has been the Old Vic’s Artistic Director since 2003. His efforts have been recognised by a variety of accolades, including an honorary CBE from the Queen.
On stage, I have been fortunate enough (without paying a fortune) to see Kevin in two productions at the theatre. Inherit the Wind and Richard III. The latter reunited director Sam Mendes with Kevin for the first time since their successful collaboration in the Oscar winning film American Beauty.
With Kevin in the title role as the tyrant monarch (although his newly found skull, found under a Leicester car park, suggested he did not have the face of a deformed despot, which pleased the anti-Shakespeare/pro-Richard faction) the production began at the Old Vic in mid 2011, followed by a worldwide tour, culminating in a New York season in 2012.
With his other play and at various public appearances such as opening nights, premieres, even Mikhail Gorbachev‘s 80th birthday bash (Kevin was MC) at the Royal Albert Hall. I have always found him a generous and gracious signer.
He even had his own ‘siggy stall’ – a custom built signing window next to the Old Vic stage door, which he stands behind after each performance, signs and poses for pics. However, for Richard III he did not use the protective porthole and did not sign at all. It was probably due to the taxing final scenes in which he hangs upside down for some length of time. It would take a while for him to stabilise into a Sharpie controlling state. So I left the sketch at the stage door with a note and a stamped self-addressed envelope. It was returned to me within the week.
I met Mark Rylance tonight who is performing Richard III and Twelfth Night in repertory. He leads an all male cast – both brilliant plays. My drawings of the rest of the cast are here.
He slipped down to the stage door to have a sneaky ciggie, so I got his siggy and had a great discussion with him about playwriting. He’s just finished writing “Nice Fish” which will premiere in Minneapolis in April this year.