British actress Sophia McShera is no stranger to playing strong, fiery women. Known for roles as kitchen maid Daisy Robinson in the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning TV series DOWNTON ABBEY and 6th form student Ros McCain in WATERLOO ROAD, Sophie returned to the West End as Jean Rice in the revival of John Osbourne’s THE ENTERTAINER, which has just concluded its run at the Garrick Theatre.
Her last play was back in 2011 when she played Pea opposite Mark Rylance in JERUSALEM at the Apollo. THE ENTERTAINER continues Sophie’s collaboration with Sir Kenneth Branagh in the final production of his Plays at the Garrick season. Sir Kenneth directed her as the nasty stepsister Drisella in the live action Disney film CINDERELLA.
I finally managed to meet Sophie as she left the theatre in the final week and she was happy to sign my drawing.
Instead of quietly slipping off to Tuscany and working on his memoirs, veteran British actor Gawn Grainger stepped into the role of ex-showman Billy Rice in THE ENTERTAINER, the final production in the Kenneth Branagh season of plays at The Garrick. The 78 year-old replaced John Hurt, who was originally cast to play the father of washed-up music hall performer Archie Rice, but had to withdraw for medical reasons.
Gawn’s illustrious stage career began with his West End debut at the age of twelve before going on to be part of Lawrence Olivier’s inaugural season at the National Theatre and has since worked with the professions finest. Paul Taylor wrote about Gawn’s performance in his Independent review “Gawn Grainger is perfection at conveying the Edwardian staunch pride and garrulous irritability with the modern world.” He signed my drawing at the stage door, commenting, “it looks like me,” which is always a good sign.
This is the third drawing that Greta Scacchi has signed for me. The first two were graphed when she starred in BETTE AND JOAN alongside Anita Dobson at the Arts Theatre in 2011. The Emmy-winner has returned to the West End in the last play of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s productions at the Garrick. John Osbourne’s venomous 1957 play THE ENTERTAINER. Greta plays Phoebe, the sad wife of Sir Kenneth’s clapped-out Vaudevillian Archie Price. The Independent’s Paul Taylor wrote in his four-star review, “Greta Scacchi vividly captures the touchiness and squally mood-swings of Archie’s weary, put-upon working class wife.” Greta was running a little late for Saturday’s matinee, but graciously stopped to sign for three of us waiting at the stage door, including this sketch of her as Phoebe and a younger portrait, which I identified when she asked me who the second person was? She smiled and signed.
For the past year Sir Kenneth Branagh and his theatre company’s creative home has been the Garrick Theatre on London’s Charing Cross Road. The ‘Plays At The Garrick’ debut season has now entered its final chapter with John Osborne’s THE ENTERTAINER, featuring Sir Ken in the lead role as the failing music-hall performer Archie Rice. He appeared in four of the six productions and co-directing three with Rob Ashford.
My montage sketch depicts him as Archie, hit-man Ralph in THE PAINKILLERS and Leontes, the King of Sicily in Shakespeare’s THE WINTER’S TALE. I caught up the the theatrical knight himself as he arrived at the stage door on Saturday morning, as usual, hours before the matinee and signed it for me. I asked if there would be another residency next year and he replied. “As Mr Schwarzenegger would say, we’ll be back.”