Drawing: The Philanthropist at the Trafalgar Studios

Simon Callow directs a brand new production of Christopher Hampton’s most celebrated play THE PHILANTHROPIST at London’s Trafalgar Studios, which opens this week after a fortnight of previews.  It’s a ‘fiendishly clever inversion’ of Moliere’s THE MISANTHROPE, which the writer describes it as a ‘biting bourgeois comedy’, centring on an academic whose morbid compulsion to please everyone has the opposite effect.

After a ‘try-out’ at the Royal Court in London, the play premiered on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in March 1971. It was nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Play. “Christopher Hampton was 23 and it was his first big hit – a stonking success,” said Simon Callow, who has gathered together a young cast, light on theatre experience, but well known to TV audiences.

THE INBETWEENERS star Simon Bird makes his stage debut, joined by Tom Rosenthal, his co-star in Channel 4’s FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER, FRESH MEAT and CALL THE MIDWIFE’s Charlotte Ritchie, BAFTA winner Matt Berry from the IT CROWD and actress-model Lily Cole, who all signed my montage sketch heading in for Saturday’s matinee.

Drawing: Barnaby Kay in Buried Child

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My final character sketch of the cast of Sam Shepard’s dark psychodrama BURIED CHILD is Barnaby Kay who plays Tilden, a ‘distracted man-child’ who has returned to his paternal home and a dysfunctional family to potter around outside digging up vegetables….which his parents performed by Ed Harris and Amy Madigan say don’t exist! The limited run at London’s Trafalgar Studios began last November and has been extended until next month. Barnaby’s career involves an extensive mix of TV, film and stage appearances. He spent the early years as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and appeared in the 1998 Best Picture Oscar-winner SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. He signed this sketch for me at the stage door last December.

Drawing: Ashleigh Grey, Lizzy Connolly and Lauren Samuels in Vanities

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A revised version of  VANITIES, A NEW MUSICAL, based on Jack Heifner’s book and the 1976 play, debuted at the Trafalgar Studies in London for a limited, one-month run last September.

The original production premiered Off-Broadway in 2009. The West End show starred Ashleigh Grey, Lizzy Connolly and Lauren Samuels as Kathy, Joanne and Mary, three best friends growing up in Dallas,Texas at a time when image and style was more important than brains and ambition.

As the promotional slogan stated, “They’re Pretty, They’re Popular, They’re Clueless.” The London production featured new material not heard in New York.

I left this drawing of Ashleigh, Lizzy and Lauren at the Studios on the final day and when it didn’t come back, I thought I must have missed them. But, yesterday it arrived in the mail.

Drawing: Jeremy Irvine in Buried Child

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Six years ago British actor Jeremy Irvine was playing a tree in David Greig’s RSC production of DUNSINANE at Hampstead theatre, before he was plucked from ‘the forest of obscurity’ to play the lead role in Steven Spielberg’s big-screen adaption of the epic WAR HORSE.

Jeremy was about to give up acting, finding work was difficult and a career change was on the cards. He had never been in a film before, but learnt to ride, gained 14lb of muscle and learnt the Devonshire accent for two months of auditions. The legendary director wanted a newcomer to play the role of Albert. “I saw hundreds of actors, but no one had the heart, the spirit and the communication skills that Jeremy had,” he said.

Late last year he returned to the London boards as Vince in Sam Shepard’s American gothic play BURIED CHILD at the Trafalgar Studios, alongside Ed Harris and Amy Madigan. I caught up with him in after a Saturday evening performance in December and he signed my drawing for me.

 

Drawing: Ed Harris as Dodge in Buried Child

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This is the second drawing Ed Harris signed for me at the Trafalgar Studios where he appears as Dodge, the whiskey-soaked  patriarch of a dysfunctional family in Sam Shepard’s  American gothic play BURIED CHILD.  His performance has garnered excellent reviews with the guardian’s Michael Billington calling it, “utterly compelling.”

Ed signed my sketch just before Christmas and the production has been extended until early March this year.

Drawing: Amy Madigan in Buried Child

amy-madigan

Both Amy Madigan and her husband Ed Harris are making their London stage debuts in Sam Shepard’s celebrated play BURIED CHILD at the Trafalgar Studios. Sam Elliot’s revival transferred from a two month run at New York’s Pershing Square Signature Theatre. Amy plays Hallie, the psychologically troubled matriarch of a dysfunctional family which the Guardian’s Michael Billington described as “deftly mixing self-delusion with downright flirtiness.”

Amy received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination in 1985 for TWICE IN A LIFETIME and won a Golden Globe for her portrayal as Sarah Weddington in the 1989 TV film ROE vs WADE.

I meet the very approachable and friendly couple after an evening performance just before Christmas and they were happy to sign my drawings.

Drawing: Charlotte Hope in Buried Child

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British actress Charlotte Hope is ‘having a bit of a moment’ as they say in the business. The ‘moment’ has lasted four years and continues. The Oxford graduate made her film debut as part of the factory ensemble in LES MISERABLES in 2012 and then went on to play Myranda in the mega-hit TV series GAME OF THRONES and Stephen Hawking’s younger sister Philippa in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING amongst her impressive recent resume. She is currently in the West End playing Shelly in Sam Shepard’s BURIED CHILD alongside Ed Harris, which I sketched and she signed last week at the Trafalgar Studios stage door.

Drawing: Ed Harris in Buried Child

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Sixty-six year old veteran actor Ed Harris has made his London stage debut in Sam Shephard’s 1978 Pulitzer Prize winning weird-as-hell family drama BURIED CHILD at the Trafalgar Studios after its successful New York run earlier this year. Directed by Scott Elliot, this ‘impressively unsettling revival’ opened last night for a 14 week engagement.
While he known for his large body of screen work, resulting in multiple Oscar nominations and winning a Golden Globe and SAG awards, Ed began his acting career on the stage. In 1986 he received a Best Actor Tony nomination for his performance in George Furth’s PRECIOUS SONS.

Ed plays Dodge, a septuagenarian Illinois patriarch wedded to his sofa. In his Guardian review Michael Billington called the production “brutally compelling” and “Harris’s impressive as a whiskey-soaked old wreck in Shepard’s gothic story of loveless inertia and poisonous guilt in a dysfunctional family.” He is joined on stage by his wife Amy Madigan. Ed signed my sketch at the stage door during previews a couple of weeks ago.

Drawing: Annapurna Sriram in The Spoils

annapurna-sriram

In May this year, Jesse Eisenberg’s dark comedy THE SPOILS transferred from its New York premiere run to London’s Trafalgar Studios for a three month season. Not all the original cast ventured to the West End, but joining Jesse and THE BIG BANG THEORY’s Kunal Nayyar was Annapurna Sriram who played Reshma, Kunal’s pushy medical student girlfriend. Annapurna, or Anna or AP as she is often called, explained the reason for reprising her role. “Reshma is something I am really proud of – that’s my role, my baby. I didn’t like the idea of someone else doing it.” It’s her second visit to London, having spent time at The Globe studying Shakespeare after competing her Arts Degree from Rutgers University.

She came to prominence in the 2015 supernatural horror series SOUTH OF HELL and  more recently as Tara Mohr, the hard-partying employee of US Attorney Chuck Rhodes played by Paul Giamatti in the Showtime hit TV series BILLIONS.

Brooklyn-based Annapurna is Indian-American, which she said has helped her acting career. “We’re in a day and age where being ethnically ambiguous – which is what I am – is a commodity”. I meet the very amiable Anna at the Trafalgar Studio’s stage door a couple of weeks before the play finished in mid-August, where she took a photo of my drawing then signed it for me.

Drawing: The Spoils at The Trafalgar Studios

The Spoils

Jesse Eisenberg’s third play, THE SPOILS explores the questions of privilege and the value of family and relationships. The off-Broadway transfer to London’s Trafalgar Studios opened this month to critical acclaim. Jesse, Kunal Nayyar and Annapurna Sriram reprised their roles from the original New York production, joined by Londoners, Alfie Allen and Katie Brayben.

Jesse’s breakthrough performance as Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg in the 2010 film THE SOCIAL NETWORK saw him nominated for a Golden Globe, the BAFTA and an Academy Award. Kunal is best known as Raj Koothrappali in the CBS hit BIG BANG THEORY. Last year Forbes listed him as the third highest paid TV actor. Alfie plays Theon Greyjoy in the hugely popular GAME OF THRONES and Katie won the Oliver Award for her betrayal of Carole King in BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL. Brooklyn-based Annapurna was recently seen as host Nicky Tomalin in the sci-fi podcast THE MESSAGE which reached Number 1 on the iTunes Charts.

Jesse signed a sketch for me during rehearsals. This is another drawing of all five cast members, who all arrived at once on Saturday prior to the matinee. It was a bit like London buses, none for a while then five arrived at once, but they kindly took their turn to sign it for me.