Drawing: Sir Ian McKellen as King Lear

Autographed drawing of Sir Ian Mckellen as King Lear at the Chichester Festival Theatre

After a decade, Sir Ian McKellen returned to play KING LEAR at the Chichester Festival Theatre in a sold-out five-week season late last year. Having played the role in Trevor Nunn’s 2007 production for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Ian felt that performing it in vast theatre’s meant he declaimed lines that should have been more softly spoken or even whispered.

The contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s most unforgiving tragedy in the intimate 280 seat, wrap around Minerva stage gave him that chance and at 78 he is closer to Lear’s age, which helped him achieve his aim: not to act Lear, but to be Lear in what is “probably his last big Shakespeare part,” according to a recent BBC interview.

The critics agreed, after six decades of acting, Sir Ian ‘reigned supreme’. “McKellen is never less than astonishing,” wrote Neil Norman in the Express, “McKellen is in full command of a lifetime’s acting technique,” said Mark Stenton in The Stage and ‘McKellen meticulously explores Lear’s delusions of grandeur,” exclaimed the Metro’s John Nathan.

I left this drawing at the theatre, which Sir Ian signed and dedicated with a bronze sharpie complete with a metallic glow on his insignia.

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Drawing: Andrew Scott in Hamlet

After a sell-out run at the Almeida Theatre, Richard Icke’s acclaimed adaption of Shakespeare’s HAMLET transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End in June with BAFTA and double Olivier-winner Andrew Scott as the Danish Prince.

In her five-star Guardian review, Kate Kellaway called the production “an all-consuming marvel. Andrew Scott’s prince proves a brilliant communicator.”

Andrew signed my drawing for me after I left it at the stage door.

Drawing: Chukwudi Iwuji

Nigerian-born British actor Chukwudi Iwuji (usually shortened to Chuk), was sent to an English boarding school at age 10 while his parents worked for the UN in Ethiopia. He studied economics at Yale University before going to drama school then returned to the UK and became a stalwart of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His one ambition was to play HAMLET with them, but that opportunity came last year when he played the Danish Prince at New York’s Public Theatre in a three-week run after a tour of prisons, homeless shelters and senior citizen’s venues. The previous year he was also in the Big Apple in Christopher Marlowe’s TAMBURLAINE THE GREAT at the Theatre for New Performance. Both roles were captured in my sketch which Chuk signed for me at the Barbican while he was appearing in OBSESSION opposite Jude Law.

Drawing: Roger Allam and Jessie Buckley in The Tempest

I drew this sketch of Roger Allam as Prospero and Jessie Buckley as Miranda from Jeremy Herrin’s production of THE TEMPEST which was part of the 2013 season at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. But I never got the chance to get it signed at the time. It’s what I call ‘siguations vacant’.I have numerous  unsigned sketches in my bag, just in case I cross paths with those rendered. Jessie actually signed a short while after the season finished at her London agency, but I’ve been waiting for Roger to walk the boards again. This seems to happen at three to four year intervals, between his screen commitments. Having won the Olivier for his magnificent performance as Falstaff in HENRY IV PARTS 1 & 2 at the Globe in 2010, he returned for THE TEMPEST three years later. He did so again, albeit it a little longer, last month in LIMEHOUSE at the Donmar Warehouse, where I managed to meet up with him on a quiet Saturday morning to complete the sketch signing.

Drawing: Jane Horrocks as Regan in King Lear

horrocks-lear

British actress Jane Horrocks played Regan, one of the declining monarch’s daughters, in the latest production of KING LEAR at the Old Vic. Small in statue, but huge on talent, the LITTLE VOICE star said “I relish my smallness. I really like my smallness,” in a Guardian interview earlier this year. She stands 5′ 4″ in ‘killer heels’ stalking about the stage ‘dangerously oversexed’ and ‘deliciously conniving’, complete with her signature shock blonde hair, seen recently in ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE, reprising her role as Bubble, the goofy sidekick of Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley.

As always the amicable Jane signed my sketch at the stage door on her way into a Saturday matinee a few weeks ago.

Drawing: Rhys Ifans as The Fool in King Lear

ifans-lear

Welsh actor Rhys Ifans returned to the London stage as the Fool in KING LEAR, which finished its run at the Old Vic last week. The production marked the theatrical comeback after 25 years of Glenda Jackson in the lead role. Although he had established himself with an extensive acting CV, Rhys became a global name as Hugh Grant’s lodger Spike in the 1999 film NOTTING HILL His scheming clown in LEAR received critical acclaim with the Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish writing, “Definite highlights include Rhys Ifans as an anarchic Fool, in a Superman cape, donning a scary clown mask and sleeping out the storm in shopping trolley.” Rhys has already gone in by the time I got to the stage door, but popped out for a quite ciggy and a siggy on my sketch.

Drawing: Glenda Jackson as King Lear

glenda-jackson-lear

“Glenda Jackson’s performance will be talked about for years,” wrote Dominic Cavendish in his Telegraph review of Deborah Warner’s star-studded modern-dress production of KING LEAR, which has just completed it’s short run at London’s Old Vic. Twenty-five years after her last stage performance as Christine in Eugene O’Neill’s MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA at the Glasgow Citizens, the 80 year-old, two-time Oscar winner made a ‘triumphant return to the stage’ with a “ferocious, unflinching performance that transcends gender and puts her amongst the best Lears,” proclaimed the Guardian’s Michael Billington.

In 1992 she became the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, winning four successive elections before retiring at the last election. It was suggested by more than one critic that her experience of political life and the injustices in the world enriched her understanding Lear. “Where does all her energy come from? Or that voice, which can blast out with a force to induce shockwaves? She is so pale, so spectre-thin with an androgynous crop of lankish hair… her neck pushes forward in vein-accentuating confrontation” continued the Guardian critic. Glenda was a little more subdued, thank goodness, at the stage door when she arrived for a Saturday matinee a couple of weeks ago and signed my drawing.

Drawing: Kathryn Hunter as Richard III

kathryn-hunter

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.

Drawing: Lily James as Juliet

Lily James

I couldn’t resist doing another sketch of Lily James as Juliet, currently starring in the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s ROMEO AND JULIET as part of the Plays At The Garrick season in the iconic London venue. Matt Trueman wrote in his Variety review, the fawnlike James is “beautifully expressive, stretching the verse like silly putty…”

Lily signed this second drawing for me last week after an evening performance. The production on 13 August.

Drawing: Shit-faced Shakespeare

shit faced shakespeare

“Lord, what dicks these mortals be!”

Not exactly as originally written, but the meaning is the same.

SHIT-FACED SHAKESPEARE is the unholy offspring of Magnificent Bastard Productions and has become something of a cult at the annual Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe Festivals. It has spawned numerous versions and is currently being performed in such global locations as Texas, Massachusetts and London.

Bardolatry is big this year with a myriad of Shakespearian productions commemorating the 400th anniversary of the writer’s death. This, however is a irreverent take on the Shake – a bawdy, abbreviated adaption of one of his plays by five cast members, one of which is completely hammered, totally wasted or as the Bard himself would say, “Reeling ripe” …nay shit-faced.

The latest production, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM has taken up an extended residency at London’s Leicester Square Theatre. A company of nine  perform in rotation to ‘give the livers time to recover’. The director and MC, Lewis Ironside opens the show enthusiastically explaining what is about to happen…as far as he knows. On press night the 70 minute version centred around the four lovers, Lysander (Sam Marron), Hermia (Beth-Louise Priestly), Demetrius (John Mitton) and Helena (Stacey Norris) joined by Puck (Rob Smythson) who grabs a Bottom from the audience. The designated drunk was Sam, who consumed two Stellas, half a bottle of vodka and a can of Archer’s woo woo before tackling the role of a legless Lysander and a few other things. Over the past six years, 20,000 units of alcohol have been consumed.

I left this Shakespearian scribble with Beth-Louise at the theatre who kindly signed and got the rest of the crew to do the same …although I’m not sure which one of them was on the turps. I’ll let you decide. Bottoms up!