Listed amongst one of Cate Blanchett’s trivia pages is ‘Enjoys making lists and crossing items off as she accomplishes them.’ This sketch has been on my list to get signed by the two-time Academy award winner since she performed Big and Little (Gross ind Klein) at the Barbican in April 2012. It probably wasn’t on Cates. When it was first staged in London in 1983, Botho Strauss’s surreal play was meet with boos and walkouts. Critics called the three hour long play a ‘punishing’ piece of avant-garde theatre. This new English adaption by Martin Crimp had a much better reception this time round. The Guardian’s Michael Billington wrote, “one of the most dazzling, uninhibited performances I’ve ever seen, suggests a garrulous angel who doesn’t quite belong to earth.”
Anyway back to lists. As mentioned, since the spring of 2012 I have tried to get this drawing signed. In fact this is part of a trilogy-a concept familiar to Cate and her role in certain Peter Jackson Middle Earth blockbusters. I drew 3 sketches based on Big and Small. One I left at the theatre and two I kept in case our paths should cross. The theatre triplet has not reappeared. I’m not sure why I had drawn two others and the reason has never bothered to clarify itself. Opportunities have presented themselves over the past three years, but that’s all they’ve done. This year Cate was to be presented with the BFI Fellowship at the London Film Festival. Plus,she was attending two screenings. A trilogy of chances to get a sketch signed. First one came and went. The second, at the Truth prem worked. I didn’t ask if it was on her list, but I can now cross it off mine.
French screen star Juliette Binoche returned to London’s Barbican Theatre in the new English language translation by prize-winning Canadian poet Anne Carson of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy ANTIGONE, directed by internationally renowned Belgian theatre director Ivo van Hove.
Juliette first appeared at the Barbican in 2012 in MADEMOISELLE JULIE, an updated version of August Strindberg’s MISS JULIE. She made her London stage debut in 1998 with the production of Luigi Pirandello’s NAKED at the Almeida Theatre. In 2000 she appeared in Harold Pinter’s BETRAYAL on Broadway, earning a Tony award nomination. Eight years later she performed on the National theatre stage in the collaborative piece IN-I with Akram Khan.
Juliette is always a good signer. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Curzon Cinema Mayfair a few years ago and she was a delight and signed a quick portrait sketch for me. This ANTIGONE study was left at the theatre for her and it came back signed and dedicated. Merci beaucoup Juliette!
The Testament of Mary is a controversial play by Colm Tóbin based on his 2012 Man Booker Prize shortlisted novella of the same name and the play Testament, which was initially performed at the Dublin Theatre Festival in October 2011. It imagines a new account of Christ, one is which his mother Mary questions her son’s death, his divinity and the followers who called him the son of God.
Its short Broadway run in 2013 had militant Christians on the streets accusing it of blasphemy, though it still garnered three Tony nominations, including Best Play. Tony-nominee and four time Olivier-award-winning actress Fiona Shaw played Mary, directed by long time collaborator and Olivier-winner Deborah Warner. The production had its only UK performances at London’s Barbican, where Deborah is the Associate Director, in May 2014.
The play gives Mary a voice, since she is strangely silent in the Biblical text, in an 80 minute monologue. It powerfully captures the terrible grief of a disenchanted mother who has lost her son, first by fame and then by a terrible public death. One of the most potent moments is when Mary says, “when you say that he redeemed the world I will say it was not worth it, was not worth it.”
The production mesmerised audiences and critics alike on both sides of the Atlantic. The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer summed up the acclaim, “Shaw is magnificent thorughout.”
I’m sure being inside the head of American actor, writer, director, producer and fashion designer John Malkovich would be a fascinating, if not a disturbing space to be. I would settle to be in a space beside him for as long as it took him to sign and dedicate my sketch. That space happened to be The Barbican in central London on a Saturday in mid-June 2011. Like his imagined persona, JM can offer a variety of responses to graph – both auto and photo – requests. One thing I did find out from the zombies, who were circling the foyer in numbers, Mr Malkovich walks in the front door – no sneaking in side entrances for him. His signature used to be recognisable in the early ’90’s – all letters formed in the conventional manner as per the English alphabet, spelling out his name. Now it looks more like the print out from a cardiograph machine.
John Gavin Malkovich has appeared in over 70 motion pictures, spanning a 30 year career. He’s also directed and produced a few and written a screenplay. To complete his Renaissance-man image he set up his own fashion company, ‘Mrs Mudd’ in 2002. Among other things it includes the John Malkovich Menswear Collection called ‘Uncle Kimono’ and he designs the clothing himself.
He was hopefully entering the front door of The Barbican that Saturday afternoon in mid-June to take part in a Q&A following a screening of DANGEROUS LIAISONS . He was also performing a two-day season of the unusual one-man play, THE INFERNAL COMEDY, playing the role of the notorious Austrian serial killer-Jack Unterweger. It was a solo acting part… along with a baroque orchestra and two sopranos, singing arias about murder and abandonment. Not one of your cheeriest days in theatre. So, would he be in character-method acting? Pretty hard to get a graph from a serial killer…without some fatal injury.
As it turned out, Mr M was already in the building, possibly using a side door and was wandering around the foyer, talking on his cell phone… followed by a line of autograph hunters. It resembled the Pied Piper. I decided to remain in one spot and watch the carnival, which eventually came past me.. and stopped… because the prey stopped. He saw my sketch, completed his call and asked me if I wanted it signed by him – a novel reversal to the norm. He did so with his cardiogram sig and dedicated it, as well as signing a BEING JOHN MALKOVICH film poster. Then his phone rang and he popped back on it and the procession started all over again around the Barbican foyer on that bright Saturday afternoon in mid-June.