Drawing: Laura Donnelly in The Ferryman

The real-life experience of Northern Irish actress Laura Donnelly inspired the plot for Jez Butterworth’s latest hit play THE FERRYMAN, directed by Sam Mendes, which became the fastest selling production at the Royal Court earlier this year and has now transferred to the Gielgud in London’s West End.

The disappearance and murder of Laura’s uncle Eugene Simmons was the basis for this Troubles-era story. She was only a child, but remembers how he was taken away by the IRA, shot and his body dumped in a bog. Laura, best known to TV audiences for her roles in CASULTY, MERLIN and BEOWULF worked with Jez on his play THE RIVER at the Royal Court alongside Dominic West and Miranda Raison and on Broadway with Hugh Jackman.

Laura has attracted high critical praise for her portrayal of the victim’s widow, Caitlin Carney in THE FERRYMAN and signed my drawing of her in the role at the stage door last month.


Drawing: Hayley Atwell in The Faith Machine

Hayley Atwell

English actress Hayley Atwell made her West End debut as Catherine in A View From The Bridge at the Duke of York’s in 2009, earning an Olivier award nomination. In September 2011 she appeared in the world premiere of Alexia Kaye Campbell’s third play The Faith Machine on the Jerwood stage at the Royal Court Theatre. Directed by Jamie Lloyd. it’s based on the premise that making choices has consequences. The Standard’s Henry Hutchings used the phrase ‘karmic boomerang’ as an appealing way to convey the notion that one’s choices have inevitable repercussions and must reconcile the seductions of different belief and value systems. Having faith might seem reasonable when you are conscious of it’s unreasonable nature. In this play, Hayley played Sophie, an inspirational journalist who suddenly hurls her bewildered lover, Tom (Kyle Soller) a choice, right at the beginning: either he quits being an advertising exec for a corrupt pharmaceutical multinational or she’s leaving. The choice he makes and the events of that day changes their lives forever. Quentin Letts in The Daily Mail called it a “breakthrough in the religion versus atheism battle. In fact it’s almost enough to make one say ‘Hallelujah’.”

I haven’t had much luck with sketches  being returned from  the Royal Court and Sloane Square is on the outer fringes of my graph-hunting territory. As one of the lines in the play noted,”The real world is cruel and harsh and full of compromise.” A little overstated for my situation, but compromise I did. I put my faith in Hayley’s London agents and left it with them-a choice that had excellent consequences.

Drawing: Ian Rickson and Jez Butterworth

Ian Rickson Jez Butterworth

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.

Eighteen years later Ian directed a revival of Mojo at the Harold Pinter Theatre, featuring an all star cast, including Ben Whishaw, Daniel Mays and Rupert Grint.

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.

Sketch: Maxine Peake in Hamlet

Maxine Peake

Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre’s gender-bending 2014 production of Hamlet featuring the impressive Maxine Peake in the title role will be hitting the big screen soon.

Filmed over three nights, the sell out radical re-imagining of the Bard’s number one work will hit an estimate 200 cinemas in the UK next month.

The demand for tickets was so great, that the season was extended and became the theatre’s fastest selling show in a decade with over 75.000 people seeing it. Maxine can also currently be seen in the award-winning Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything.

“Peake’s gender ambiguous portrayal fascinatingly amplifies that element of the text,” The New Statesman’s Mark Lawson said.

Maxine is the Associate Artist at the Royal Exchange – a venue she has been with since her childhood and was a member of its Youth Theatre. Maxine is also a familiar face to small screen viewers. She was nominated for a BAFTA for her roles in the BBC One’s The Village and Handcock and Joan and also starred in the legal drama Silk, Shameless and as Myra Hindley in See No Evil.

I waited at the Royal Court Theatre stage door on a chilly Friday evening last week to meet Maxine in person, after a performance of How To Hold Your Breath. It was worth the wait. Maxine was a really nice person and kindly signed and dedicated my sketch. I asked her if she will be staging Hamlet in London. She said “nobody wants it. ” I’m sure that will change…

Drawing: Sally Hawkins and Rafe Spall in Constellations at The Royal Court Theatre


Following on from my Sally Hawkins post yesterday, I also sketched a Constellations drawing including Sally and Rafe Spall.The play, written by Nick Payne, premiered at The Royal Court in 2012 before a West End transfer. It won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Play and received an Olivier writing nomination. Both Sally and Rafe signed the sketch at the Royal Court in January 2012 after a matinée performance.