Drawing: Sally Field, Bill Pullman and Jenna Coleman

Autographed drawing of actor Bill Pullman Autographed drawing of actor Jenna Coleman Autographed drawing of actor Sally Field

Jeremy Herrin’s revival of Arthur Miller’s early classic ALL MY SONS opened last month at the Old Vic theatre to critical acclaim. Amongst the stellar cast are three well known names, all making their London stage debuts. Double Oscar winner Sally Field is joined by Bill Pullman and Jenna Coleman.

Bill’s long stage career includes his role as Martin in Edward Albee’s THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA? at New York’s John Golden Theatre in 2002, alongside Mercedes Ruehl as Stevie. When the cast changed later that year, Bill Irwin replaced Bill, and Sally took over as Stevie in her Broadway debut. Jenna is making her first professional appearance in the West End after a number of high profile TV roles, including Clara Oswald in DOCTOR WHO and the Queen Victoria in the biographical drama VICTORIA.

Considered the play that made his name, Arthur Miller wrote ALL MY SONS in 1947, inspired by real-life events at an Ohio engineering firm who conspired to supply defected aircraft engines during the World War II.

Sally, fresh from her Tony-nominated appearance on Broadway last year in Tennessee William’s THE GLASS MENAGERIE, plays Kate Keller, trying to hold her family together, while refusing to accept the death of her pilot son, Larry who has been missing-in-action for the past three years. Bill is her husband Joe, exonerated after being charged for knowingly supplying the military with damaged aircraft engine cylinder heads, causing the death of 21 pilots and Jenna plays Annie, the late pilot’s sweetheart.

I was fortunate to meet all three early on in rehearsals at the Old Vic, where they kindly signed their respective sketches for me.


Drawing: Jane Horrocks as Regan in King Lear


British actress Jane Horrocks played Regan, one of the declining monarch’s daughters, in the latest production of KING LEAR at the Old Vic. Small in statue, but huge on talent, the LITTLE VOICE star said “I relish my smallness. I really like my smallness,” in a Guardian interview earlier this year. She stands 5′ 4″ in ‘killer heels’ stalking about the stage ‘dangerously oversexed’ and ‘deliciously conniving’, complete with her signature shock blonde hair, seen recently in ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE, reprising her role as Bubble, the goofy sidekick of Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley.

As always the amicable Jane signed my sketch at the stage door on her way into a Saturday matinee a few weeks ago.

Drawing: Rhys Ifans as The Fool in King Lear


Welsh actor Rhys Ifans returned to the London stage as the Fool in KING LEAR, which finished its run at the Old Vic last week. The production marked the theatrical comeback after 25 years of Glenda Jackson in the lead role. Although he had established himself with an extensive acting CV, Rhys became a global name as Hugh Grant’s lodger Spike in the 1999 film NOTTING HILL His scheming clown in LEAR received critical acclaim with the Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish writing, “Definite highlights include Rhys Ifans as an anarchic Fool, in a Superman cape, donning a scary clown mask and sleeping out the storm in shopping trolley.” Rhys has already gone in by the time I got to the stage door, but popped out for a quite ciggy and a siggy on my sketch.

Drawing: Glenda Jackson as King Lear


“Glenda Jackson’s performance will be talked about for years,” wrote Dominic Cavendish in his Telegraph review of Deborah Warner’s star-studded modern-dress production of KING LEAR, which has just completed it’s short run at London’s Old Vic. Twenty-five years after her last stage performance as Christine in Eugene O’Neill’s MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA at the Glasgow Citizens, the 80 year-old, two-time Oscar winner made a ‘triumphant return to the stage’ with a “ferocious, unflinching performance that transcends gender and puts her amongst the best Lears,” proclaimed the Guardian’s Michael Billington.

In 1992 she became the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, winning four successive elections before retiring at the last election. It was suggested by more than one critic that her experience of political life and the injustices in the world enriched her understanding Lear. “Where does all her energy come from? Or that voice, which can blast out with a force to induce shockwaves? She is so pale, so spectre-thin with an androgynous crop of lankish hair… her neck pushes forward in vein-accentuating confrontation” continued the Guardian critic. Glenda was a little more subdued, thank goodness, at the stage door when she arrived for a Saturday matinee a couple of weeks ago and signed my drawing.

Drawing: Simon Lipkin, Laura Cubitt and Ben Thompson in The Lorax

The Lorax

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.”

The Lorax is Dr Suess’ moustachioed and cantankerous critter (and the author’s personal favourite), whose mission is to protect the planet from the greedy, Tuffula tree-chopping, thneed-knitting businessman, the Once-Ler. THE LORAX was also a festive production directed by Max Webster at The Old Vic, which competed its successful season last weekend. Adapted by David Greig, who also did CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, currently running at Drury Lane, it’s a fable about environmental change and the damage humans can do to it. As a Christmas show it was full of the joys, but with a serious message, blending theatrical innovation, puppetry, a bunch of brand new songs and zany humour.

The Guardian’s Michael Billington called the production, “the best family show since MATILDA”.

“Stunningly brought to the stage,” as one critic wrote, as a puppet, simultaneously manipulated by three actors – Simon Lipkin, Laura Cubitt and Ben Thompson, who I missed out in my sketch, because he’s usually working closer to the floor and out of shot.  No stranger to puppet theatre, Simon, an original cast member of the London production of AVENUE Q, provided the voice for the Lorax. Together with Ben and Laura, another with a penchant for puppets, including WAR HORSE for The National, they brought the title character to life.

I left the drawing at the theatre, because on the night I was waiting at the stage door,  constant rain was dampening my enthusiasm and the artwork. It came back signed, including Ben with a kind note from Simon, explaining the additional siggy.

The Lorax Note

Drawing: Kristin Scott Thomas in Electra at The Old Vic Theatre

Kristin Scott Thomas

Kristin Scott Thomas plays Sophocles’ avenging heroine Electra in the title role at London’s Old Vic.

It reunites Kristin Scott Thomas with director Ian Rickson after a string of great collaborations, including the award-winning 2007 revival of The Seagull at the Royal Court.  The stage is set in-the-round, as it has been all year at the theatre. Frank McGuinness adapted this retelling of the 2,500 year old classic Greek tragedy of a daughter’s grief over her father’s death, consumed by a desire for revenge against his murderers, her mother and stepfather. An added bonus is the music of PJ Harvey.

The BBC News reported “Kristin Scott Thomas thrills critics at the Old Vic”. With a clutch of five star reviews, the idiom “kill for a ticket triumph” has been used.

The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish called Kristin’s performance a, “tour de force,” and said, “… within 90 minutes or so, the erstwhile screen goddess propels herself into the first rank of theatrical titans”.

Phil Taylor in The Independent said Kristin was, “excruciatingly good,” and The Telegraph’s Tim Walker (my favourite London critic) said, “Kristin Scott Thomas’ performance  of raw human intensity makes this production unforgettable. This is unquestionably the Old Vic at its very best.”

Drawing: Richard Armitage in The Crucible at the Old Vic Theatre

Richard Armitage

Maybe it was because he’s Robin Hood on the telly, or more lily because he is Thorin Oakenshield in Perter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy that accounted for the hoards of people – mostly female – that became part of the nightly vigil to meet Richard Armitage outside the Old Vic stage door in London during its recent season of The Crucible.

At the heart of Arthur Miller’s tale of religious hysteria in the Salem Witch trials of 1692 was an immense performance as John Proctor from Richard. Apparently his first stage part was playing an elf in a production of The Hobbit at the Alex Theatre in Birmingham. His appearance certainly created some offstage hysteria as well.

Once again I left it to the final week to try and get a sketch signed, with the excepted consequences. Actually, as a back up I did leave one a couple of months earlier at the theatre, but it hadn’t appeared through the mail box by the time the last few days rolled around. This sketch was a quick one of Richard and Samantha Colley in rehearsal.

At three and a  half hours The Crucible‘s Finish time was 11pm, giving a small window of opportunity before the last train home. The line stretched along the entire side wall of the Old Vic, from stage door to front door. I was positioned three quarters down it with tales of woe by ardent ‘Armitagees’ that he doesn’t always complete the line. This night he did, but very quickly. To accommodate everyone’s demands he used the abbreviated initials ‘RA’ not the full version. ‘RA’ with a tail and lower case ‘g’ slipped near the end like an abandoned hair clip. Still, he quickly graphed my drawing and moved on.

Drawing: Toby Stephens and Hattie Morahan in The Real Thing at The Old Vic Theatre

The Real Thing 1

Anna Mackmin’s revival of Tom Stoppard’s 1982 post modern comedy The Real Thing was staged at the Old Vic in the spring of 2010. Described as the play within a play within a play as a study of bourgeois adultery. It is about the acquisition of self-knowledge through pain. Henry (Toby Stephens) s a successful, elitist playwright who abandons his wife to live with the exuberant Annie (Hattie Morahan) only to find himself the victim of deception.

Reviews for the production were glowing with critics agreeing that the acting of Toby and Hattie was superb.

The Real Thing 2

Drawing: Niamh Cusack, Robert Sheehan and Ruth Negga in The Playboy of the Western World

The Playboy of the Western World

The Old Vic staged a revival of JM Synge’s Irish classic The Playboy of the Western World in the winter of 2011 with Robert Sheehan making his professional stage debut as the “swaggering motormouth” charmer Christy Mahon.

Ruth Negga is the self-possessed Pegeen – a combative barmaid who takes Christy’s fancy and the excellent Niamh Cusack’s calculating and sexually combative widow Quin lures the boy’s affections in a different direction.

When the play was first staged in 1907 at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre it provoked riots and was denounced as “an unmitigated protracted libel upon Irish peasant men and , worse still, on Irish peasant girlhood.”

As usual I left it to the last few days. On the Saturday I arrived at the stage door of the Old Vic, Ruth and Niamh had already gone in and the small hand was on 2 with the big hand rapidly approaching 12. The ‘graph harvest didn’t look promising. Then Robert rushed by and apologised… “Running late” and went in. I found out later he had locked himself out of his flat and had to borrow his landlord’s master key to make a hurried copy at Waterloo Shoe Repairs. They cut them while you wait, and he was cutting it fine to get to The Cut on time (sic). After all that, I eventually got Niamh at the Apollo two years later when she was in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and Robert signed at his London agent’s office a month later. Ruth is still on my ‘to get’ list.

Drawing: Kevin Spacey and David Troughton in Inherit The Wind

Inherit the Wind

Trevor Nunn’s INHERIT THE WIND featured Kevin Spacey as Henry Drummond and David Troughton as Matthew Harrison – two legal titans confronting each other with freedom of thought on trial. It’s based on the 1925 ‘Monkey’ trial when science teacher John Scopes was accused of violating Tennessee State law by teaching Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Staged at London’s Old Vic, Kevin and David kindly blue-biroed my black biro sketch in the autumn of 2009.