Drawing: Colm Meaney in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Dublin-born and Golden Globe nominated actor Colm Meaney has returned to the West End boards after a ten-year absence, playing plantation patriarch Big Daddy in Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. The Young Vic production directed by Benedict Andrews is currently playing the Apollo until October. Colm, known to Trekkies as Chief Petty Officer Miles O’Brien in STAT TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and DEEP SPACE NINE.

Colm’s last London stage appearance was in Eugene O’Neill’s A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN opposite Kevin Spacey at The Old Vic in the Autumn of 2006. He signed this sketch of him as Big Daddy a few weeks ago at the stage door before a Saturday matinee.

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Drawing: Amy Griffiths as Florabel Leigh

amy-griffiths

Hart and Kaufman’s great old-fashioned Broadway comedy hit ONCE IN A LIFETIME was revived at London’s Young Vic theatre over the festive season. Satirising the entertainment world at the arrival of ‘talking pictures’, the story follows three enterprising New Yorkers as they head west to cash in after the first sound film became a smash hit, setting up an elocution studio in Tinseltown.

Amy Griffiths plays Florabel Leigh, a somewhat famous silent film star who finds that the switch to sound puts her at a disadvantage because of her accent, so she needs to enrol in elocution lessons to work in the talkies. Misadventures abound. Amy signed my Florabel sketch after the final matinee in January.

Drawing: Mark Lockyer in Living With The Lights On

mark-lockyer

In 1995 actor Mark Lockyer had a very public meltdown while playing Mercutio in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of ROMEO AND JULIET in Stratford. His erratic behaviour including a fumbled Queen Mab speech and seizing a saxophone from a musician mid-performance and giving a Courtney Pine impersonation and being furious afterwards when an enraged stage manager thought it was Ackerman Bilk was a result of ‘meeting the devil on the banks of the Avon.’

His undiagnosed bipolar disorder lead to imprisonment, arson and eventually treatment in a mental hospital. Now twenty years later, his gripping solo show LIVING WITH THE LIGHTS ON  is a ‘brutally funny account of mental illness’.

“Lockyer has one hell of a story and he tells it rivetingly well,” wrote Dominic Maxwell in The Times. I meet Mark after his matinee performance last Friday at London’s Young Vic Theatre and he signed my drawing with a solitary ‘M’, saying “that’s how I sign my name,” which I replied was perfectly fine.

Drawing: Aoife Duffin in A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing

Aoife Duffin

Annie Ryan’s startling stage adaption of Eimear McBride’s bruising novel A GIRL IS A HALF-FORMED THING arrived at London’s Young Vic last week amid must-see buzz. Premiering at the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2014, the unflinching portrait of one girl’s turbulent journey into the adult world was the sellout sensation at the Edinburgh Fringe and is now on a UK and US tour. Aoife Duffin, who plays the ‘girl’, is probably more widely known for her comedic role as Trisha in Chris O’Dowd’s TV sitcom MOONE BOY, has garnered a clutch of acting awards for the acclaimed solo show.

The Guardian, among other mainstream papers gave it 5 stars with The Financial Times calling her 95 minutes on stage “a remarkable performance.”  In a relentless monologue about a young woman, brutalised in puritanical Ireland as she ‘people’s the stage with characters encountered during her short life.’

It’s a thriving busy place in the Young Vic, especially on a Friday, so I didn’t notice Aoife leave after her performance until she was outside the venue and heading past the window. I did my bit for method acting and chased her down the street, adding to her traumatised characterisation experience, but she was happy to sign this montage sketch for me.

Drawing: Susannah Fielding in Bull at the Young Vic

Susannah Fielding - Bull

The “consistently brilliant” Susannah Fielding was joined by Nigel Lindsay, Max Bennett and Marc Wootton in Clare Lizzimore’s “stunningly nasty production” (TimeOut) of Mike Barlett’s BULL when it was restaged at London’s Young Vic’s intimate Maria space over the Christmas season. She played the icy, sleek alpha female Isobel, who uses her manipulative skills to survive corporate downsizing when three warring work colleagues fight for the two remaining positions in what critic Sophia Chetin-Leuner called “The performative splendour of being cruel.”

Winner of the 2014 Charleson Award for her memorable portrayal as Portia in Rupert Goold’s THE MERCHANT OF VENICE at the Almeida Theatre, Susannah’s star continued to shine. “The spoils go to Susannah Fielding, who gets to deliver the powerhouse speech that brings the play to its climax,” wrote Thomas Dearnley-Davison in Spindle Magazine.
Susannah signed this sketch of her in the role after surviving another session in the ‘bullring’ on the final Saturday.

Drawing: Romola Garai in Measure For Measure

Romola Garai

It’s become a tradition for my wife and I to celebrate our wedding anniversary by taking in a bit of Bard. This year we went to see Joe Hill-Gibbins radical version of Shakespeare’s ‘problematic play’ MEASURE FOR MEASURE at the Young Vic.

It featured Romola Garai as Isabella and opened with the cast emerging from a mass of inflatable sex dolls, not your typical interpretation of Will’s work. The Guardian’s Michael Billington described Romola’s performance as ‘astonishing’.

Her interesting name is the female version of Romulus the founder of Rome and Garai is Hungarian. She has three siblings called Ralph, Roxy and Rosie to complete the alliteration quartet. Interesting name and interesting person with a Master’s Degree in English and she plays the violin.

As a presenter of the Best Male Comedy Performance gong at the 2013 BAFTA TV Awards she prefaced the announcement of the winner by saying, “After the recent birth of my child, I had the misfortune of having 23 stitches in my vagina. So I didn’t think I would be laughing at anything for a long time. But tonight’s nominations have proved me wrong.”

I didn’t get this sketch of Romola as Isabella signed at the theatre because I missed her going out and asked the wrong person! Sometimes the understudies do look similar and I have had the odd identity crisis at stage doors, but the Young Vic have extended the similarities to members of the crew, who was very pleasant about my faux pas. I had no such difficulty at the BFI this week where she was participating in a Q&A after the screening of her latest TV feature CHURCHILL’S SECRET in which she play’s the iconic wartime leader’s nurse. It did help that I was able to differentiate between her and Sir Michael Gambon who plays Churchill.

Sketch: Michael Sheen as Hamlet

Michael Sheen

In May 2013 I posted a signed montage sketch of Michael Sheen as Hamlet, from the Young Vic winter 2011 production of the Bard’s number one play.

I had also drawn this biro portrait, which is actually one of my favourites, which Michael also signed.

Hamlet was directed by Ian Rickson and is set in the secure wing of a psychiatric hospital and features original music by PJ Harvey. The Telegraph declared Michael’s performance, “could be up there among the great Hamlets” and the Evening Standard said, “an audacious achievement that will live in the memory”.

He was really nice and took time to chat and ‘graph in The Cut Bar as he headed to the stage door for an evening performance. I was watching Stephen Frears’ The Queen the other night in which Michael stars as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and remembered I had this other sketch.

So, here it is… after Royal decree.

Sketch: Eleanor Matsuura in Bull at The Young Vic

Eleanor MatsuuraTokyo-born and London raised actress Eleanor Matsuura is currently appearing as the determined Isobel in Clare Lizzimore’s riveting production of Mike Bartlett’s razor-sharp Bull at the Young Vic in London.

The play looks at the fine line between office politics and playground bullying as three employees fight to keep their jobs in a corporate wrestling ring.

It’s nasty, it’s brutish, it’s short – a 55 minute exercise that provides catharsis for theatregoers who want to purge the day’s tensions by watching a metaphoric version of what may be happening during regular office hours.

I drew this montage of Eleanor including her role in Enron at the Noel Coward Theatre, which she signed for me after two rounds in the ‘ring’ (a matinee and evening performance) on Wednesday.

Drawing: Charlotte Lucas, Jessica Raine and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith in The Changeling at The Young Vic Theatre

The Changeling1

 

Jessica Raine and Charlotte Lucas featured in the sell out hit The Changeling at London’s Young Vic, helmed by the Theatres’ Deputy Artistic Director Joe Hill-Gibbings in early 2012. Described as a ‘darkly comic tale of sex, love and panic’ this was a modern-dress revival of Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s 1622 classic which was originally set in Renaissance Spain. One reviewer called it “The Changeling supercharged – urgent, sexy and messy.”

It’s focus is the doomed romance between Alsemero, a nobleman and Beatrice-Joanna’s impending marriage to another man, until she finds a solution… which has deadly consequences. Jessica described her character in three words “clever, lusty and murderous”.

Her maid, Diaphanta (Charlotte) performs the bedroom trick, and stands in for Beatrice (Jessica) in a highly lubricious and well-lubricated spectacle in which a blindfolded Kobna Holdbrook-Smith and Charlotte smear themselves with jelly!

Drawing: Edward Petherbridge in My Perfect Mind at The Young Vic Theatre

my perfect mind

The Guardian labelled the two man show My Perfect Mind, “an exquisite piece of tomfoolery”. Performed by Paul Hunter and Olivier Award winner Edward Petherbridge, it has just finished a four week run at London’s Young Vic as part of a UK tour. It is inspired by Edward’s experience of not playing Lear.

In 2007, Edward travelled to Wellington in New Zealand to fulfil his long cherished ambition to play Shakespeare’s King Lear. Two days into rehearsal he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralysed. Remarkably, he was still able to remember every world of the mad monarch.

It’s played on a disorientating tilted stage in a world that’s off kilter and difficult to physically negotiate. The title is from Lear’s most chilling line “I fear I am not in my perfect mind”. It is a very funny piece mixed with the fact that we are all heading, like Lear, towards our own private struggle sot maintain perfect mind.

It’s a show that invokes the ghosts of Petherbridge’s childhood, the ghosts of all those actors who have played Lear and the ghost of the performance that Edward never got to give.

Paul plays a variety of characters who have figured in Petherbridge’s life, including Lord Olivier, the actor’s mother (herself a stroke victim) and the Fool to his Lear. He signed my sketch going in, but I missed Edward. Waiting at the lower stage door, (the Young Vic has at least two) I missed him again after the performance. He and left via the upper stage door since the play is performed in the upper auditorium. Paul told me he was eating at an Italian restaurant over the road and assured me he wouldn’t mind the intrusion.

It’s not my usual practice, stalking people when they are eating, but, more in my left mind I did. I apologised. “You expected the entrée, not a fool with a drawing”. He graciously signed it, while I kept apologising to him and his companions.

Tim Walker in his five star review in The Telegraph said of Edward, “… has acquired a tremendous sense of majesty that makes him a magnetic stage presence: I sincerely hope he may yet get to play Lear and deliver the lines that remain so stubbornly in his head”…. or at least finish his post-show Italian dinner without interruption by a theatrical scribbler.