Playwright of the moment, James Graham currently has two plays featuring in the West End, only doors apart on St Martin’s Lane. INK, the story of the Sun newspaper opened at the Duke of York’s in September after transferring from the Almeida Theatre and at the Noel Coward Theatre, his take on the Labour party’s thorny past, LABOUR OF LOVE opened earlier this month with Martin Freeman and Tamsin Greig in the lead roles.
It’s very rare to have a new play open directly into the West End without a prior try-out lelsewhere. Martin plays David Lyons, Oxford educated Blairite MP for the East Midlands and Tamsin is Jean Whittaker, the long-time constituency office agent of the staunch leftie old guard persuasion. Described as a political romcom, LABOUR OF LOVE is set on the night of the 2017 election night rewinding back through the party’s history over the previous 27 years.
It’s full of gags such as this one when Jean comments on the party selecting the red rose when rebranding in the nineties, “it looks pretty, but it’s full of pricks.” Both Martin and Tamsin signed this sketch for me last weekend at the stage door.
British golfer Charley Hull is one of the rising stars on the women’s International golf scene. Introduced to the game at the age of two, the twenty-one year old turned professional in 2013, becoming the youngest player to compete in the Solheim Cup. She was part of the first European squad to win on US soil and was named Rookie of the Year She was also voted Best Newcomer by the Sports Journalists Association. In 2014 Charley became a champion on the European circuit before the age of 18 and was named the European Ladies Player of the Year. Last year she won the prestigious season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. Charley signed this sketch for me while competing at the Scottish Open at the Dundonald Links in Ayr in July.
English actress Lesley Joseph sobbed… but in a good way, when she found out she had won the role of housekeeper and superannuated lover of the original Doctor F Frau Boucher in Mel Brook’s new West End stage production of his 1974 film YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. “Oh my God I’m going to be working with Mel Brooks!”
Lesley became an international name as Dorian Green in the British TV sitcom BIRDS OF A FEATHER and recently as a contestant on STRICTLY COME DANCING with partner Anton Du Beke. In his four-star review for The Independent, Paul Taylor wrote, “Lesley Joseph brings a superb hatchet-faced obsessiveness to Frau Blucher and her idiotic goose-stepping devotion to the memory of the violent older Frankenstein.”
Lesley signed my Frau B sketch going into the Garrick Theatre for Saturday’s matinee.
French-American dancing legend and film icon Leslie Caron attended a screening of her 1962 film THE L-SHAPED ROOM at the BFI London Film Festival on Saturday. She won the BAFTA and Golden Globe and was nominated for the Oscar for her performance as a young French woman pregnant with an illegitimate child. The film represented a departure from the musical comedies that made her an international star-AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, GIGI and LILI, the latter earning her another BAFTA and Oscar nomination. In 2007 Leslie won an Emmy Award for her guest role in LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT. At the age of 86 she is still acting, appearing on the small screen as Countess Mavrodaki in the 2016 series of ITV’s THE DURRELLS. I was lucky enough to meet her at the BFI when she arrived for the screening and signed my drawing.
I drew BAFTA-nominated English actress Charlotte Spencer in her role as Christine Keeler in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical STEPHEN WARD, which she signed for me at the Aldwych Theatre back in 2013. She returned to the London stage earlier this year in the Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival of Terrance Rattigan’s LOVE IN IDLENESS, which transferred to the Apollo in May, playing Diane Fletcher, the estranged ‘yet not entirely uncooperative wife” of Tory minister Siri John Fletcher. Charlotte also signed this drawing for me at the stage door.
Edward Bluemel’s immediate family all have one thing in common, his mum is an Oxford physicist, his dad an Oxford chemist, his sister a Cambridge philosopher and his brother an Oxford classicist so when he decided not study at Oxbridge, opting instead for an acting career and studying at the Royal Welsh Academy. It was a bold move. But it has proved fruitful.
Since then the 24 year-old has appeared in numerous screen roles, most notably as the young aristocrat Toby Hamilton in the ITV ‘s drama THE HALCYON. This year he made his professional stage debut in Trevor Nunn’s revival of Terrance Rattigan’s LOVE IN IDLENESS at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, which transferred to the Apollo Theatre in the West End. It’s the third in Rattigan’s ‘war plays’ set in the same period as THE HALCYON, so Edward had a good reference. He played Michael a young evacuee who develops socialist tendencies while spending the war years in Canada. He returns home to his widowed mother who is now the mistress of a right wing government minister.
It’s a part Edward described as ‘a complete millennial snowflake.’ In her review for the Guardian, Kate Kellaway said, “Edward Bluemel is spot on as Michael” and Mark Shenton was equally impressed writing, “As that son, Edward Bluemel catches the arrogant sense of youthful entitlement with an appropriately irritating vigour.” I could up with Edward at the stage door after a matinee performance in May and he signed this sketch for me.
English actress Natalie Dormer has returned to the West End this month as the brash, vulgar, unschooled actress Vanda Jordan in the Patrick Marber-directed two-hander VENUS IN FUR at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Natalie’s last appearance on the London boards was Patrick Marber’s AFTER MISS JULIE at the Young Vic in 2012. Reviews said she was “nothing short of sensational”. She also appeared two years earlier on the same stage as Mitzi in SWEET NOTHINGS. Natalie gained international prominence on the big screen as Cressida in THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY, Parts 1 and 2 and on the small screen as Margaret Tyrell in THE GAME OF THRONES.I meet her after Saturday’s evening performance at the stage door where she signed this drawing for me.
Forty-year-old Northumberland-born funnyman Ross Noble has been performing since he was smuggled into his local comedy club at the age of 15. Since then he has become a regular on TV’s mainstream comedy shows. This month he made his West End musical debut as the hunchbacked servant Igor in Mel Brook’s YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN at the Garrick Theatre, which has its opening tomorrow night. The Geordie stand-up is playing the role made famous by comic legend Marty Feldman in the original 1974 film version. “I have an advantage, I come with my own hump”, he said in a recent interview.
He made his musical debut in another Mel Brook’s show, THE PRODUCERS on its 2015 UK tour, playing pigeon fancier Frank Liebkind. His initial conversations for YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN was over the phone when Mel who acted out every character. “I got my own private Mel Brooks performance”, Ross said. He signed this sketch for me at the stage door over after last Saturday’s matinee.
Fernanda Oliveria is a Prize-winning Brazilian ballerina, not to be confused with the Brazilian Olympic medal-winning sailor of the same name. Fernanda the dancer is Lead Principal at the English National Ballet, which she joined in 2000 having trained at the Centro de Danca Rio and the Royal Ballet Upper School. She moved through the ranks from First soloist in 2003 to Principal in 2007 and Lead Principal two years later. Her favourite productions are ROMEO & JULIET and MANON and her career highlight is creating the role of Gerda in THE SNOW QUEEN for the CONCERT FOR DIANA at the newly-built Wembley Stadium in 2007. Fernanda signed this sketch for me at the ENB studios in London.
The legendary actor, writer, director, producer, composer and all round funny man, Mel Brooks is 91 and still going strong. He’s in London with the musical version of his classic 1974 film YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, which after a short UK tour, debuted on the West End at the Garrick Theatre last week. The original Broadway production ran at the Hilton Theatre from November 2007 to January 2009, collecting three Tony nominations. Mel is one of only twelve people who have won the EGOT winners of the four main annual American entertainment competitive category awards; the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Mel also created and wrote one of my all time favourite TV shows, GET SMART with Buck Henry. He has been in London for a while with rehearsals and previews at the theatre, where he frequents most days, but I haven’t managed to catch-up with him yet, but did leave this sketch at his Hotel and it came back instantly, signed and dedicated.