Drawing: Desmond Barrit

Swansea native Des Barrit is known for his comedic stage performances such as Bottom, Falstaff, Toad and the Antipholus twins in A COMEDY OF ERRORS for which he won the Olivier in 1992. His latest West End outing is as Hugh, the gay best friend of Stockard Channing’s character Kristin in Jamie Lloyd’s revival of APOLOGIA at the Trafalgar Studios. Although a compelling and at times tense family drama, Des once again punctuates the pathos with humour and most of the funniest lines, “Kristin is to diplomacy what I am to heterosexuality,” to quote one example.

I drew this montage of Des, including his 2002 Olivier-nominated role as Falstaff in HENRY IV Parts 1 & 2 at the Theatre Royal Bath and W.H. Auden in the National’s A HABIT OF ART, which he signed after a Saturday evening performance I was lucky enough to see a couple of weeks ago.

Drawing: Ralph Fiennes and Elisabeth Hopper in The Tempest

The Tempest

Twenty-three year old newcomer Elisabeth Hopper’s big breakthrough came with her role as Miranda the teenage castaway in Trevor Nunn‘s hit London production of Shakepeare’s last play The Tempest opposite one of her idols, Ralph Fiennes, as her father Prospero at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in late 2011.

She made her stage debut earlier as a courtier in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, also directed by Sir Trevor at the same theatre.

Only two years prior to that Elisabeth was studying English and Drama at Manchester University, and described working with Ralph as “one of the things that dreams are made of,” to echo a line from the play.

In her audition, she performed one of Juliet’s speeches from Romeo and Juliet which Sir Trevor said was “as stunningly original and unexpected as I have ever come across.”

The production caused a bit of a storm at the box office with £1million advance tickets sales due to Ralph’s headlining appearance. “The combination of Ralph and Sir Trevor is a magical recipe” said co-producer Arnold Crook.

And it was a bit of a stormy opening night when I contemplated getting this sketch of Elisabeth and Ralph signed at the stage door. The lack of cover and positioning of the exit in a cul-de-sac creates its own ‘weather vortex’.

The Times critic Libby Purves even referred to the seasonal squall as the “first equinoctial gales swept London – a classic Tempest on and off the stage”.

Not an environment conjusive to signing. I left the drawing at the stage door, which both them signed and returned to me.

Drawing: Bad Jews

Bad Jews

Joshua Harmon’s corrosive family comedy BAD JEWS, directed by Michael Longhurst just completed it’s extended West End run at the Arts Theatre in London on Saturday. It originated at the Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio last year before transferring to the St James Theatre in  London in January then onto the Arts a month later.

Described by WhatsOnStage as a “brutal, feral script with great soul” it centres on a gathering of three jewish cousins in a cramped Manhattan apartment for their grandpa’s funeral. Daphna (Jenna Augen), a puritanical vegan uber-Jewess and Rabbi in training is jealous of Jonah (Joe Coen) and Shlomo (Ilan Goodman), who calls himself Liam, because their wealthy parents bought them a flat before either had found a job. Liam is  a self-styled ‘bad jew’,obsessed with Japanese culture and intends to marry out of the faith. He arrives late, missing the funeral because he was skiing (apparently a non-Jewish activity) in Aspen with his dim, but beautiful gentile girlfriend Melody (Gina Bramhill). The crux of the conflict is a lucky medallion, a treasured family heirloom, which their grandfather hid in his mouth during years in a concentration camp. Daphna and Liam both claim it, but the latter has it in his pocket and intends to give it to Melody as a marriage garland. Daphna is displeased, screaming, get it off her “Christian c**t neck!”

Paul Taylor in the Independent put it simply, “blisteringly funny…brilliantly acted.”

I, as usual left it to the last day to get my sketch signed, but not the last performance. I thought I would attempt to get the cast going in for the matinee in an already over-subscribed saturday stalking schedule.  Getting there at noon, the very helpful box office staff told me that they all arrive at different times,  but usually after 1.30. Plan B. I wrote a quick note and left it with a stamped envelope (a sig stalker is always prepared) and one of my black Pentel fine point pens… oh yes and the drawing (which once or twice I’ve forgotten to include, but that’s for another time), with the aforementioned wonderful staff. ‘No Problem, the Production Manager calls past before each performance – we’ll give it to her”, and ‘mazel tov’ to me… it arrived, signed in my post box, within three days.