Drawing: Adam Gillen in Amadeus

adam-g

Born Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart in 1756, the most gifted musician in the history of classical music was multilingual and freely adapted his name to other languages. He preferred ‘Amadeus’, the latin version of his Greek middle name and so did Peter Schaffer for the title of his multi-award winning play and film about the bitter rivalry between court composer Salieri and the young upstart Mozart. The National Theatre’s latest revival directed by Michael Longhurst, is currently running on the Olivier stage starring Adam Gillen in the title role.

Best known as Liam, the son of the transvestite barman/woman Les(ley) in the ITV hit series BENIDORM, Adam’s stage performance has drawn rave reviews from the critics, including Paul Taylor from the Independent. “Adam Gillen delivers the most moving portrayal of Shaffer’s version of Mozart that I have seen since Michael Sheen played the role 20 years ago.” He described his portrayal as “Rik Mayall during a bout of Tourette’s.” I dropped this sketch of Amadeus Adam of at the Theatre’s stage door and it was returned signed and dedicated with a Happy New Year greeting.

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Drawing: Elizabeth McGovern in Sunset at the Villa Thalia

Elizabeth McGovern

DOWNTON ABBEY’S  Elizabeth McGovern returned to the London Stage this month in Alexi Kaye Campbell’s new play SUNSET AT THE VILLA THALIA on the Dorfman stage  at the National Theatre. She plays June,  the ‘retsina-sloshing’ alcoholic wife of the enigmatic Harvey, (Ben Miles) a US Government rep during the political turmoil in Greece in 1967. The ‘funny and passionate’ play looks at the effects of Western interventionism on the Greek nation and it’s people. The Times said ‘The play is a winner. Elizabeth McGovern is superbly funny.”

American-born but London-resident for many years, Elizabeth played Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham in the hugely popular TV series DOWNTON ABBEY from 2010 until this year. It’s a role that has earned her a Golden Globe and an Emmy nomination and has won the ensemble SAG Award twice. She also received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and a Globe nomination for the 1981 film RAGTIME.

Elizabeth is also an accomplished singer-songwriter. In 2008 she formed the band ‘Sadie and the Hotheads’ which became a regular fixture at the Castle Pub in Lndon’s Portobello Rd.

Fittingly, I left this sketch of her as June in June at the National, and she signed it for me.

Drawing: Naomie Harris in Frankenstein at the National Theatre

naomie harris

Naomie Harris will soon be seen on the big screen reprising her role as Eve Moneypenny in the latest Bond film Spectre. London-born with West Indian parents, she was the first black actress to play Moneypenny and the first to get a first name in the previous and 23rd production of the 007 franchise, Skyfall. It was, however, on the biggest stage at the National Theatre in the spring of 2011,  that Naomie made her theatrical debut in the world premiere of Danny Boyle’s staging of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the Olivier Theatre. “I’m very grateful to Danny Boyle.” she said in an interview. “He’s the reason really that I have the career that i have because he took at risk on me and gave me Selena in 28 Days Later.” In Nick Dear’s adaption of the classic novel, Naomie played Victor Frankenstein’s fiancee Elizabeth Lavenza. The title character and the creature were played by Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch who alternated the roles each night. Benedict played the creature when I saw it so I have included him in this sketch. While i did get her autograph on my programme and have a few things signed at premieres, this is my first sketch graphed by her. Nothing intriguing about the signing  provenance. I simply sent it to her London agency. i was very pleased with the result, because due to to circumstances of stage doors and screenings, signatures tend to be done at speed and can become some what of a scribble. This is a clear exemplar of Naomie’s handwriting.

Drawing: Ricardo Chavira and Flor De Liz Perez in The Motherf**ker With The Hat

motherfucker in hat

It would be fair to say that the title of this play caught my attention. The Motherfucker with the Hat is sometimes censored as The Motherf**ker with the Hat and is a play by Pulitzer Prize winning Puerto Rican / American playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis which premiered at Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Thetare in April 2011. Earning six Tony nominations, it was described as a “high octane verbal cage match about love, fidelity and misplaced haberdashery”.

In June this year it received its UK premiere on the Lyttelton stage at the National Theatre, directed by Indhu Rubasingham.

In her four star Guardian review, Susannah Clap commented on “The National’s irritating decision to use asterisks,”as, “both coy and preening on their marketing material”. Stephen Collins continued this theme on the BritishTheatre.com site,”Given the number of times the word “motherfucker is bandied about, along with other sundry expletives, this misplaced sense of propriety is frankly embarrassing. It’s as if The National Theatre is slightly horrified by its choice”. He noted that the play was able to appear on Broadway billboards without asterisks.

Ricardo Chavira (from TVs Desperate Housewives plays former drug dealer Jackie who is on parole and living clean and sober. Flor De Liz Perez (now that’s a moniker to equal the play’s title) is his girlfriend Veronica who “still uses and boozes”. Jackie arrives at Veronica’s cramped Times Square studio apartment “full of good intentions and pent up testosterone”. As they’re jumping into bed he notices a hat… not his hat… so he accuse’s her of cheating which triggers a New York run around.

“Chavira is in bravura form and really squeezes every bit of interest out of his character and the situations. It’s tough, brutal, brooding at its best,” writes Collins. Flor De Liz Perez is, “sexy, vicious, bad tempered foul mouthed and effortlessly libidinous,” as the girl shared by Jackie and the titular hat wearer.

“She spits out offensive abuse with the same rigorous detachment that Julie Andrews enunciates consonants in The Sound of Music. It’s a full throttle performance”.

The National only has one stage door, but a myriad of exits and entrances, so I usually leave the sketch and hope it will be passed on to the respective talent. The productions are also in repertory which means that they are not performed everyday, so you have to plan your drop off carefully.  I left this sketch early in the run when it was on stage over a few days in succession.

When nothing came back I figured I had missed the boat. Then yesterday two weeks after the final performance, this appeared in the mail.

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.

 

Sketch: Rory Kinnear and Clare Higgins in Hamlet

Hamlet Clare Higgins Rory Kinnear

Rory Kinnear’s portrayal of Hamlet in the 2010 production at The National Theatre is considered by many of the theatrical great and good to be a generation defining portrayal of the Great Dane. It was the National’s former artistic director Nicholas Hytner’s first time directing Shakespeare’s most famous play. His Denmark is a modern dress production set in a surveillance state.

The Independent’s David Lister called it , “a chilling production that demanded to be seen”. He said, “A great Hamlet is not only a Hamlet of this time, it can be a Hamlet that defines his time”.

“Kinnear shows a Hamlet whose depression can be seen in fits of unwarranted aggression, withdrawal, manic high pitched laughter, intense unhappiness or simply desperate attempts to make sense of anything “. He won the 2010 Evening Standard Sward for his portrayal. He was praised for a his, “bold reinvention of the Dane”.

Lister makes special mention of Clare Higgins, “revelatory Gertrude… predicatably, the marvellous actress redefines the role. Gone is the weak, lovestruck pliable and guilt ridden mother and wife. This is more realistically a woman who will have a drink when it suits her, is more than capable of barking out orders herself and knows exactly what she wants out of life”.

Not always an easy place to catch cast members, given the many exits available at the National Theatre, I was very fortunate to catch both Rory and Clare who loved the sketch and were more than happy to ‘graph it for me.

Sketch: Anna Maxwell Martin in King Lear at The National Theatre

Anna Maxwell Martin

Sam Mendes astonishing and absorbing production of King Lear at London’s National Theatre last summer included Anna Maxwell Martin playing the mad King’s eldest daughter with Simon Russell Beale in title role.

Lloyd Evans in The Spectator summed up the critics’ reviews, “There are outstanding performances from Anna Maxwell Martin, whose Regan is a hysterical sex freak turned on by torture.”

Anna has won two BAFTA awards, the first for her portrayal of Esther Summerson, the central character in the 2005 BBC adaption of Charles Dicken’s Bleak House. Her second was for playing ‘N’, a long-term mentally ill patient in Poppy Shakespeare three years later.

She was also nominated in 2011 for her role as Sarah Burton in South Riding.

Drawing: Ciaran Hinds and Sinead Cusack in Juno and Paycock at The National Theatre

Juno and the Paycock

Sean O’Casey’s gutting tragicomedy Juno and The Paycock is one of the most highly regarded and often performed plays in Ireland. First staged in Dublin at the Abbey Theatre in 1924 and set in that city during the Irish Civil War in the early 1920s, it is the second of the ‘Dublin Trilogy’ between The Shadow of a Gunman (1923) and The Plough and the Stars (1926).

London’s National Theatre in association with the Abbey Theatre staged the revival on the Lyttelton Stage in late 2011 with Ciarán Hinds and Sinéad Cusack in the lead roles as Captain Jack Boyle and Juno Boyle respectively.

“Searing, sobering, devastating and beautiful,” said the Sunday Independent. Both Ciarán and Sinéad signed my sketch in February 2012 at the Theatre and for a brief moment my stage door name became Martin…

Drawing: Lucy Punch in Great Britain at the Royal Theatre Haymarket

lucy punch

Richard Bean’s new political satire Great Britain about “Press, Police and Politics” and the cosily corrupt connections of all three, opened at the National Theatre within days of the end of the phone-hacking trial and was an immediate hit.

Directed by Sir Nicholas Hytner, it transferred to the Royal Theatre Haymarket with Lucy Punch replacing Billie Piper in the title role as Paige Britain, the ruthless and power crazed news editor who ends up sleeping with both the PM and the Assistant Met Commissioner.

The 36 year old Lucy returns to the stage after a 12 year absence. Her stock character on the screen she admits are ‘the vulgar and the ditsy’ such as the dopey receptionist in Doc Martin, to Anthony Hopkins promiscuous trophy girlfriend in Woody Allen‘s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. She told The Guardian “If the character is smug, bitchy, trashy or has dubious morals, call me!”

Paul Gent in The Telegraph said of her role as Paige Britain, “Lucy Punch makes her ballsy and thoroughly unlikeable”. She was thoroughly likeable at the stage door when she signed this sketch after last night’s performance.

Drawing: Cillian Murphy Stephen Rea and Mikel Murfi in Ballyturk

Ballyturk

Enda Walsh’s latest play Ballyturk opens on the Lyttelton stage at London’s National Theatre next week (11 September 2014) directed by the playwright for one month only. Since premiering at the Galway Arts Festival in July, it has been a sell out smash hit at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin and the Cork Opera House.

Cillian Murphy returns to the National following his electrifying solo performance in Enda’s Misterman. He is joined by the author’s long time collaborator Mikel Murfi and internationally acclaimed film and theatre actor Stephen Rea.

Michael Billington in The Guardian called it “a manic physical comedy like Under Milk Wood as interpreted by Buster Keaton”. Irish critic Fintan O’Toole simply called it “Eric and Ernie” (Cillian and Mikel) two innocent men, simply identified as one and two, who share a bed but are not lovers, in a windowless basement covered in layers of pencil drawings, in an imagined Irish no-place called Ballyturk. Character 3 (Stephen) enters the frenetic desperation on stage as a quiet, anti-climatic chain-smoking deus ex machina (this is a plot device, it’s from Latin meaning ‘go from the machine’ and is used by the writer to solve seemingly insolvable problems with a new character or event) who terrifies them!

Ballyturk is a continuation of Walsh’s last collaboration with Cillian and Mikel in Misterman. Enda said he and all three actors in mind when he wrote the piece.

All three kindly signed my sketch at the Olympia during the production’s run in mid-August.