The Award-winning THE GIRLS has just finished its West End run at the Phoenix Theatre. Based on the 2007 hit film CALENDAR GIRLS, this musical stage adaption was written by Take That’s Gary Barlow and Tim Firth who also scripted the film’s original screenplay based on a true story of a group of spirited, middle aged Yorkshire housewives who strip for a calendar to raise money for a cancer charity. I left this montage sketch of the cast-Joanna Riding, Claire Moore, Claire Machin, Sophie-Louise Dann, Michele Dotrice and Debbie Chazen- at the stage door and it came back signed in the final week. A UK tour is planned for next year.
British actress Pauline Collins rose to prominence as the maid Sarah Moffat in the popular TV series UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS during the early 70’s, but it was her portrayal of the title character in Willy Russell’s SHIRLEY VALENTINE that won her all the accolades.
Pauline played Shirley on stage and screen, originating the role with the West End production at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1988, reprising the part a year lateral the Booth Theatre on Broadway and in the film version. She won the Laurence Olivier, Tony and Drama Desk Awards for her theatrical performance and the BAFTA for her screen adaption as well as Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.
I left this drawing for Pauline at her London agents office for her to sign which she kindly did.
Nigerian-born British actor Chukwudi Iwuji (usually shortened to Chuk), was sent to an English boarding school at age 10 while his parents worked for the UN in Ethiopia. He studied economics at Yale University before going to drama school then returned to the UK and became a stalwart of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His one ambition was to play HAMLET with them, but that opportunity came last year when he played the Danish Prince at New York’s Public Theatre in a three-week run after a tour of prisons, homeless shelters and senior citizen’s venues. The previous year he was also in the Big Apple in Christopher Marlowe’s TAMBURLAINE THE GREAT at the Theatre for New Performance. Both roles were captured in my sketch which Chuk signed for me at the Barbican while he was appearing in OBSESSION opposite Jude Law.
The real-life experience of Northern Irish actress Laura Donnelly inspired the plot for Jez Butterworth’s latest hit play THE FERRYMAN, directed by Sam Mendes, which became the fastest selling production at the Royal Court earlier this year and has now transferred to the Gielgud in London’s West End.
The disappearance and murder of Laura’s uncle Eugene Simmons was the basis for this Troubles-era story. She was only a child, but remembers how he was taken away by the IRA, shot and his body dumped in a bog. Laura, best known to TV audiences for her roles in CASULTY, MERLIN and BEOWULF worked with Jez on his play THE RIVER at the Royal Court alongside Dominic West and Miranda Raison and on Broadway with Hugh Jackman.
Laura has attracted high critical praise for her portrayal of the victim’s widow, Caitlin Carney in THE FERRYMAN and signed my drawing of her in the role at the stage door last month.
British actor Anthony Head is probably best known globally as the stuffy Librarian Rupert Giles in TV’s BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, but his stage beginnings were much more elevated, debuting as Jesus in GODSPELL, which lead to his complete role-reversal at the opposite end of the character scale, the sweet transvestite himself, Frank N. Furter in THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at London’s Piccadilly Theatre in 1998. He later claimed his Frank was much more demonic than any of the Franks that went before.
I drew this montage of Anthony which includes him as Frank, Captain Hook in the PETER PAN at the Savoy Theatre in 2003 and his latest outing as Cabinet Minister Sir John Fletcher in Trevor Nunn’s critically acclaimed production of Rattigan’s LOVE AND IDLENESS, which has just completed its run at the Apollo after transferring from the Menier Chocolate Factory. He happily signed it for me at the stage door, after a Saturday matinee last month.
Patti LuPone is musical theatre royalty on both sides of the Atlantic. Since making her professional debut 45 years ago she has played every major role and won every major West End and Broadway accolade, including the Olivier and two Tonys. She’s also collected a couple of Grammys for good measure.
Patti originated the title role of Eva Peron in the 1979 Broadway production of EVITA, picking up her first Tony. She played the part of Fantine in the original London cast of LES MISERABLES in 1985, the same year she appeared as Moll in THE CRADLE WILL ROCK, winning the Olivier for both roles. In 2008 she won her second Tony for portrayal of Rose in the Broadway revival of GYPSY.
Her latest appearance on the Great White Way is as Helena Rubinstein in WAR PAINT at the Nederlander Theatre, which garnered her seventh Tony nom. I sent her this montage sketch in March this year at the theatre and it came back dedicated and signed.
New Zealander Sam Wills and his alter – ego Tape Face found International notoriety last year, reaching the finals of America’s Got Talent, where he was the ‘most buzzed- about’ contestant. Described as a ‘modern day Chaplin’ Sam’s contemporary comedic mime revives silent film acting with a piece of tape over his mouth and the traditional stripped shirt, using facial expressions and body movements to captivate his audiences.
He began performing as an apprentice clown at the age of 13. Sam rarely gives interviews to continue the illusion of not speaking, although he was happy to chat in our antipodean accents with a fellow London-based Kiwi and sign my sketch before his matinee show at the Garrick Theatre where he is resident until 23 July.
British actor Peter Davison came to prominence as Tristan Farnon in James Herriot’s ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL before becoming the fifth incarnation of the Doctor in DOCTOR WHO. He is coincidently the real life father in law of the tenth Doctor David Tennant.
Apart from his extensive TV work Peter has a distinguished stage career including two of his recent appearances, as Professor Callahan in LEGALLY BLONDE and Herbie in GYPSY, both at the Savoy Theatre in London. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for the latter. I dropped this sketch off at the theatre, having missed Peter a couple of times at the stage door and it eventually came back signed.
She’s a household name in the Netherlands, and now Dutch actress Halina Reijn makes her first performing English speaking role in London in Ivo van Hove’s stage adaption of Luchino Visconti’s 1943 Italian neo-realism film OBSESSION at the Barbican.
It’s part of the multi-award winning Belgian director’s Avante Garde Theatre company, Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s four play residency at the London venue. Halina is Hanna, the abused wife of a bullying hotel proprietor, who has a passionate love affair with drifter Gino played by Jude Law.
“Reijn in some ways is even more extraordinary,” wrote Michael Billington in the Guardian. “She starts with the right air of anguished solitude, is quickened into life by the presence of the charismatic stranger and later sets about reordering her existence with a conscienceless practicality. It says something about Law and Reijn that, for a moment, I saw the couple as a modern version of the Macbeth.”
I met the very engaging Halina before last Saturday’s matinee and she was more than happy with my drawing and signed it. The production, which runs until 20 May, screens nationwide in selected UK cinemas tonight as part of National Theatre Live.
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.