Drawing: Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles in The Lehman Trilogy

Autographed drawing of Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles in The Lehman Trilogy at the Piccadilly Theatre on London's West End

Sam Mendes has always directed exceptional stage productions. His latest, THE LEHMAN TRILOGY is no exception. Italian dramatist Stefano Massini’s three act/three-actor play is an astonishing piece of storytelling about three German-Jewish immigrants who would come to define America. It charts three generations of the Lehman family, who establish one of the world’s biggest financial corporations in 1844 through to it’s spectacular collapse and bankruptcy in 2008, triggering the largest financial crisis in history. Adapted by the National Theatre’s deputy artistic director Ben Power, THE LEHMAN TRILOGY completed a sell-out season on the Lyttelton stage last July, followed by a limited run at the New York’s Park Avenue Armoury earlier this year, before returning to London’s West End and the Piccadilly Theatre until August.

Three remarkable actors -the ‘black-clad trio-not only play the three founding brothers, but Russell Simon Beale as Henry, Ben Miles as Emanuel and Adam Godley as Mayer also portray their children and grandchildren and various minor characters spanning 164 years. All three were nominated for this years Best Actor Olivier Award, as was Sam for his direction.

Andrzej Lukowski’s TimeOut review said that their ‘virtuosic performances’ turn “a play that might have come across as a rather a dry history lesson into a mostly electrifying one.”

Simon, Adam and Ben kindly signed my rehearsal drawing of them during the first week of their Piccadilly run.

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Drawing: Mr Foote’s Other Leg

Mr Foote's Other Leg

Thanks to the kindness of our friends Richard and Graham, Frankie and I enjoyed an excellent evening at the Theatre Royal Haymarket a couple of weeks ago to see one of the best plays in the West End at the moment, MR FOOTE’S OTHER LEG.

With the brilliant Simon Russell Beale in the lead role as the trailblazing Georgian actor,playwright, theatre manager, cross-dressing comic and ‘consummate wag’ Samuel Foote, supported by an equally brilliant cast including Dervla Kirwan, Joseph Milson and Micah Balfour the entertainment of the highest order was assured.

Ian Kelly’s play, based on the biography of the same name premiered at the Hampstead Theatre earlier this year under the direction of Richard Eyre, before transferring, appropriately to the Theatre Royal Haymarket, the very venue that Foote owned, securing the Royal patent. Described as the ‘Oscar Wilde of the 18th Century’, Samuel Foote lost a leg to a riding accident, but didn’t lose his desire to stay on stage. “The show must hop on!”  His name fitted (oh the irony!) his fate.

He became more reckless and his entrepreneur career abruptly ended with accusations of sodomy. This sketch featuring Simon, Dervla, Joseph and Micah was baptized with London’s autumnal rains as I managed to get all four to sign it after two attempts at the uncovered stagedoor. Obviously Mr Foote didn’t think of us graphemes back in his day.

Sketch: Simon Russell Beale in King Lear at The National Theatre

SImon Russell Beale

Simon Russell Beale is not only a great stage actor and an extremely pleasant chap to meet, he’s a brilliant subject to draw. Hence the frequency of my sketches of the man considered by many to be the best actor of his generation. This is in fact my second study of Simon as KING LEAR when he took to the vast Olivier stage at the National last Autumn in the exceptional Sam Mendes-directed production. This was the seventh Shakespearian collaboration for the actor-director combination. Jasper Kees commented in his article for The Telegraph that  when classical actors play HAMLET , a clock starts ticking down to his LEAR with a decent hiatus in between. He lists such notables as Ian McKellen, with a 36 year gap, 32 for Jonathan Pryce and 31 for Derek Jacobi. For 52 year-old Simon it was 14 years and if it wasn’t for Sam’s commitment to SKYFALL and CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY the gap would have been a lot less. however that hypothesis flies out the window when it was revealled that this is not Simon’s first LEAR. Oh no, he played the tragic monarch as a 17 year-old while still at Clifton College, so it’s a 35 year gap between LEARs for him, punctuated with a HAMLET.

That aside, I  caught up with Simon to sign my sketch at the Donmar Warehouse after a Saturday evenings performance of TEMPLE in which he  currently plays the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in Steve Water’s new play inspired by the London Occupy Movement and the events surrounding the hallowed venue in October 2011. As usual he was very gracious and happily signed this version of LEAR, remembering the zillions of others he had also graphed.

 

Drawing: Simon Russell Beale in King Lear at The National Theatre

Simon Russell Beale King Lear

I’m constantly drawn to Simon Russell Beale. I’ve sketched him on a number of occasions and will continue to do so. He’s an artist’s dream with such an expressive, animated face. He’s currently performing on the vast Olivier stage at the National Theatre in Shakespeare’s King Lear, directed once again by Sam Mendes.

“Simon’s great art is that he can take a role and turn it until it catches the light. Sometimes he only turns it tow degrees and bang,” Sam is quoted as saying.

It renews a long creative partnership between the two, beginning at the RSC in 1990 with Troilus and Cressida. It has included all the Bard’s greatest roles, but Lear is possibly the big one. It is the seventh Shakespeare play on which Simon has worked with Sam.

He’s an unorthodox Lear as a Stalinesque tyrant, dividing his Kingdom amongst his three daughters. It’s been in the frame for the best part of a decade and finally realised in this extraordinary epic. It’s not Simon’s first Lear, however. He did perform the role as a 17 year old schoolboy at Clifton College.

Simon signed this sketch after the Saturday performance. There are so many other renderings waiting in the wings, given the vast emotional arc he uses to portray the tragic monarch. Watch this space.

Drawing: Simon Russell Beale on stage

Simon Russell Beale001

Described by The Independent as ‘the greatest stage actor of his generation,’ Simon Russell Beale is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed talents in British theatre. He performs under his full name, as there was already a Simon Beale registered when he joined Equity. Winner of three Olivier Awards (1996, 2000, 2002) and two TV BAFTAs, Simon was also nominated for a Tony in 2004 for a revival of Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers on Broadway.

In October 2011 he returned to The National in London to star as Joseph Stalin in the premiere of Collaborators for which he won Best Actor at the 2012 Evening Standard Awards. He played the title role in Timon of Athens from July to October 2012 before taking on the role of Captain Terri Dennis in Privates on Parade – the first play in Michael Gradage’s new West End season at the Noël Coward Theatre from December 2012 to March 2013.

In January next year he will play King Lear at the National, directed by Sam Mendes.

Simon signed my sketch at the stage door of the Noël Coward Theatre in early 2013.

Drawing: Indira Varma, John Simms and Simon Russell Beale in The Hothouse

The Hothouse

Harold Pinter’s macabre tragicomedy The Hothouse returned to London’s West End in a production directed by Jamie Lloyd at the Trafalgar Studios. An excellent cast, headlined by Simon Russell Beale and John Simm opened to rave reviews.

“It’s Christmas Day in a nameless state-run institution where the inmates are subjected to a tirade of mindless cruelty. A maniacal and self-obsessed leader breeds a contagion of hierarchical savagery amongst his staff, who thrive on a noxious diet of delusion and deceit.”

Written in the 1950’s, Pinter’s biting political commentary on the perils of unchecked power proves as pertinent and subversive today.

Simon, John and Indira Varma (Miss Cutts) signed my sketch at the stage door on a variety of nights, depending on their exits during June this year.