Drawing: Simon Stephens

Autographed drawing of writer Simon Stephens

Continuing my series of writer sketches is prolific English playwright Simon Stephens. After giving up school teaching, Simon’s theatre career started at the Royal Court Theatre in London where he taught the Young Writers’ Programme for many years. He is now its Associate Playwright as well as Artistic Associate at the Lyric Hammersmith and the inaugural Associate Playwright at the Steep Theatre Company in Chicago… just busy enough.

Winner of numerous accolades, his most notable is the Best New Play Olivier Award in 2006 for ON THE SHORE OF THE WIDE WORLD. Simon’s adaption of Mark Haddon’s novel THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME won the 2013 Best New Play Olivier, one of a record seven the production collected.

The highly acclaimed story surrounding the mystery of the death of a neighbour’s dog investigated by Christopher Boone who has an autistic spectrum condition. The play opened at the National Theatre in August 2012 before transferring to the Apollo in London’s West End the following year. The production halted when the theatre’s ceiling collapsed on 19 December and reopened next door at the Gielgud Theatre in July 2014, completing the run in June last year.

The Broadway production debuted in October 2014 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, winning the Best New Play Tony Award. I sent my sketch of Simon to his London agent and it quickly came back signed and dedicated.

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Drawing: Cuba Gooding Jr in Chicago

Autographed drawing of Cuba Gooding Jr in Chicago at the Phoenix Theatre on London's West End

Cuba Gooding Jr’s portrayal of the arrogant, yet charismatic football player Rod Tidwell in Cameron Crowe’s blockbuster sports comedy JERRY MAGUIRE won him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1996. This breakthrough role originated the famous phrase,”Show me the money!” that still resonates today. This month he made his West End stage debut as the hotshot lawyer Billy Flynn in the 21st Anniversary revival of the musical CHICAGO at the Phoenix Theatre.

After being told by security that Cuba was resting between the matinee and evening performances last Saturday, he suddenly appeared at the stage door in his dressing gown to meet the surprised fans. When I asked him to to sign my sketch ‘To Mark’ he said “Oh Mark that’s my middle name, did you know that? I didn’t but I do know so I was confident he could spell it on the dedication.

Drawing: Kevin Kline in Present Laughter, Henry IV and Cyrano de Bergerac

Autographed drawing of Kevin Kline in Present Laughter, Henry IV and Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway in New York

Kevin Kline collected his third Tony Award for last year’s Broadway revival of Noel Coward’s classic comedy PRESENT LAUGHTER at the St James Theatre. His previous successes were in the 1978 original production of ONTHE TWENTIETH CENTURY and in the 1981 revival of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE.

With an Academy Award for his supporting role in A FISH CALLED WANDA, five Golden Globe, two Emmy and BAFTA nominations, he is no stranger to the Awards circuit. I did this quick montage of Kevin, incorporating him as the ageing matinee idol Garry Essendine in PRESENT LAUGHTER, the fat knight Falstaff in HENRY IV and the title role in CYRANO DE BERGERAC, the talented cadet with the enlarged proboscis and sent it to him at the St James Theatre last May. It took a while to come back, but well worth the wait.

Drawing: Ivan Mauger

Autographed drawing of speedway racer Ivan Mauger

New Zealand’s Ivan Mauger, regarded as the world’s greatest speedway rider died today at the age of 78. The Christchurch-born Ivan, who won a record six individual World Championships was voted the ‘Greatest Speedway Rider of the 20th Century.’ He was also runner-up three times. In all the speedway ace won 15 world titles, mostly in the 1970’s along with countless other events and enjoyed International celebrity status.

I can’t remember when or where Ivan signed this biro sketch for me, but I have a feeling it may have been in Wellington in 1990 when he was the inaugural inductee into the NZ Hall of Fame. RIP Ivan.

Drawing: Jack Shepherd in The Best Man

Autographed drawing of Jack Shepherd in The Best Man at the Playhouse Theatre on London's West End

Veteran British actor, Jack Shepherd has returned to the West End as ex-US President Art Hockstader in Gore Vidal’s searing political drama THE BEST MAN at the Playhouse Theatre. The 77 year-old actor, theatre director, playwright, accomplished saxophonist and jazz pianist is probably best known for his TV role as Cornwell’s Detective Superintendent Charles Wycliffe in WYCLIFFE, from 1993-1998.

Jack’s stage pedigree includes originating the role of Richard Roma in the 1983 London production of GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, which won him Best Actor at the Society of West End Theatre Awards, later known as the Oliviers.

Jack signed my sketch at the Playhouse Theatre stage door as he arrived for a Saturday matinee a few weeks ago.

Drawing: Anna Goryachova in Carmen

Autographed drawing of opera singer Anna Goryachova in Carmen

Russian mezzo-soprano Anna Goryachova made her Royal Opera debut earlier this year in the title role of Barrie Kosky’s ‘daringly dark’ new production of CARMEN. She shared the role with fellow debutant Gaelle Arquez. The 34 year-old native of St Petersburg began her opera career in her hometown’s Chamber Opera and has been a popular performer throughout Europe and Scandinavia since.

She had previously performed the role of CARMEN at Belgium’s Opera Vlaanderen and Teato Real in Madrid. In London the production broke with convention, resembling more the dazzle-dazzle of Vaudeville. Anna signed my drawing, which I left for her at the Royal Opera House stage door, with a vivid red crayon and returned it to me along with a very nice thank you note.

Drawing: Gaelle Arquez in Carmen

Autographed drawing of opera singer Gaelle ArquezOne of the world’s rising young opera stars, French mezzo-soprano Gaelle Arquez made her Convent Garden debut earlier this year, performing the title role in the Royal Opera’s production of Bizet’s CARMEN. It’s a role she knows well however, having played the famous gypsy previously this year in Frankfurt and Madrid. After graduating from the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris, Gaelle debuted as Zerlina in DON GIOVANNI for the Opera de Paris and has since played all the major opera houses around the world. Gaelle signed my drawing at the Royal Opera House after a performance of CARMEN last month.

Drawing: Honeysuckle Weeks

Autographed drawing of Honeysuckle Weeks in The Best Man at the Playhouse Theatre, A Daughter's Daughter at Trafalgar Studios and in King Lear at the Old Vic in London

Honeysuckle Weeks has a memorable stage name, so called because the fragrant climbing plant was in bloom at the time she was born 38 years ago. After graduating from Oxford University with an English degree in 2001, she embarked on an acting career that has spanned stage and screen.

She is best known on the small screen for her role as Samantha Stewart in ITV’s wartime drama FOYLE’S WAR. In 2010 she appeared in the West End run of Agatha Christie’s A DAUGHTER’S A DAUGHTER at the Trafalgar Studios and three years later played Cordelia in KING LEAR at the Old Vic.

She is currently starring in the West End debut of Gore Vidal’s THE BEST MAN at the Playhouse Theatre. I did this montage of Honeysuckle in all three stage roles and she signed it for me as she arrived at the Playhouse for last Saturday’s matinee.

Drawing: Raymond Blanc

Autographed drawing of chef Raymond Blanc

One of Britain’s most respected chefs is entirely self taught. Raymond Blanc grew up in a tiny village near Besancon in eastern France. He trained as a waiter at the local Michelin-starred Les Palais de la Biere, but in 1972 he was fired for giving the head chef some advice on cooking. The manager knew of a job in England, so three days later he was working at ‘The Rose Revived’ in Oxfordshire and married the owner’s daughter. In 1977 they opened their own establishment, ‘Les Quat’Saisons’ in Oxford, which literally became an overnight success.

This was followed by a chain of boulangeries, patisseries and cafes across the UK. In 1983 Raymond and his wife opened ‘Belmond Le Manoir au Quat’Saisons’ hotel-restaurant in Great Milton in Oxfordshire, winning two Michelin stars. In 1996 the first of the ‘Le Petit Blanc’ chain of brasseries was opened.

I sent Raymond this sketch and he returned it, signed, including his distinctive ‘plate doodle’.

Drawing: Sir Ronald Harwood

Autographed drawing of writer Sir Ron Harwood

One of my favourite plays and films is THE DRESSER, written by Sir Ronald Harwood. After arriving in London from South Africa in 1951, Sir Ronald studied at RADA and then joined the Shakespearian company of Sir Donald Wolfit and became his personal dresser.

He wrote the play THE DRESSER in 1980, based on his experiences. It an account of an ageing actor’s personal assistant, struggling to keep his charge’s life together. The 1983 film version earned him Academy Award and BAFTA screenplay nominations. Sir Ronald did win the Adapted Screenplay Oscar in 2003 for Roman Polanski’s THE PIANIST.

He also won the BAFTA four years later for his adaption of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoirs THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, as well as another Oscar nom. I did this quick drawing of Sir Ronald a couple of weeks ago and sent it to him at his London home and it came back signed.