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.

Drawing: Michael Socha and Tamla Kari in This Is Living

Michael Socha Tamla Kari

Liam Borrett’s award-winning debut play THIS IS LIVING is a poignant study of what it means to say goodbye. I was lucky enough to say hello to the very affable Michael Socha last week as he retuned to the stage for the first time in eight years. After a sold-out run at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival the play has transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in the West End. Michael who appropriately plays Michael is joined by Tamla Kari as his wife Alice on a waterlogged stage which mirrors the lake in which she has drowned 12 hours earlier. The couple spend two hours on the bleak, soggy environment delivering one of the unmissable productions of the year. The conversations  between Michael and the ‘unquietly deceased’ Alice explore the grieving process that manages to both break your heart and fill it with joy simultaneously.

Both Actors are best  known for their screen work. Michael as the bully Harvey in the hit film THIS IS ENGLAND and its subsequent spin off TV series and the E4 drama THE ALIENS, and Tamla as Constance Bonacieux in the swashbuckling THE MUSKETEERS and in both THE INBETWEENER films. Both Michael and Tamla appear in the supernatural drama BEING HUMAN.

Michael signed my drawing but I wasn’t able to wait for Tamla on my first visit, so on Saturday I returned to the stage door to complete the task. I had previously met Tamla when she was appearing in VERSAILLES at the Donmar Warehouse a couple of years ago and she signed a sketch for me then. After the matinee Michael popped out to get his sushi and was his usual friendly self, chatting with fans when he not only noticed me but remembered me from the week earlier. I must get rid of the ‘stalker’ tag sharpied  on my forehead. He wasn’t sure if Tamla was coming out, so kindly took the sketch to her and retuned with it signed. Top notch actor and even better bloke.
THIS IS LIVING.

Drawing: Jenny Seagrove in A Daughter’s a Daughter

Jenny Seagrove A daughters daughter

This was the other sketch Jenny Seagrove signed for me a couple of weeks ago as she arrived at the Theatre Royal Haymarket where she is currently appearing in Alan Ayckbourn’s HOW THE OTHER HALF LOVES.

It’s from Agatha Christie’s mother-daughter drama A DAUGHTER’S A DAUGHTER, which had its West End debut at the Trafalgar Studios in December 2009. It was penned under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott, which Agatha Christie used for a series of six romantic novels between 1930 – 1956. It is very different to her other stage work and is considered a more personal play than anything else.

Jenny played Ann, a widow, whose only daughter Sarah (played by Honeysuckle Weeks – not a name you could forget) returns home after the Second World War. Resentment and jealously rages as gradually their relationship corrodes. I drew a quick biro sketch of Jenny and Honeysuckle, which they both signed for me in early 2010, at the end of the run. This is a more detailed study of Jenny in her role and a superimposed portrait with my trusty 4B pencil.

Drawing: David Benson and Alice McCarthy in Boris: World King

Boris World King

Boris Johnson’s eight year term as London’s Mayor ended last week, but at the Trafalgar Studios he has assumed the mantle, ‘World King”… well at least for 80 minutes, (no interval) in the smash hit play, BORIS: WORLD KING.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is one of the most controversial figures in British politics and journalism, ideal for a bit of satire. After a sell out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival,  the production relocated for a four-week transfer at the West End venue.  Impressions master David Benson plays the bumbling Boris and Alice McCarthy is his long-suffering assistant Helen.

“Buffoonery conceals the dark heart of the London mayor in Tom Crawshaw’s mischievous and unsettling Boris-bio,” wrote Stewart Pringle in his four-star review for the The Stage.

David and Alice signed my sketch at the Trafalgar Studios last week. The play finished on Saturday. Boris may last a little longer.

Drawing: Uzo Aduba, Zawe Ashton and Laura Carmichael in The Maids

The Maids

“Hi-Ho, Hi- Ho, it’s off to kill we go,” sing the two maidservants and sisters Claire and Solange as they plot to kill their employer ‘ Madame’ in Jamie Lloyd’s opening production for 2016, THE MAIDS at London’s Trafalgar Studios.

Loosely based on a notorious real-life murder case in 1933 involving the Papuan sisters, Jean Genet’s violent 1947 classic thriller, translated by Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton is a real sadomasochistic shocker.

Time Out’s Alice Saville highlighted the “phenomenal acting” by  Emmy Award-winning Uzo Aduba, known as ‘Crazy Eyes’ in the prison set drama ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, Zawe Ashton, the unconventional Vod from Chanel 4’s FRESH MEAT as  the murderous siblings and  DOWNTOWN ABBEY’S finally-lucky-in love Lady Edith, Laura Carmichael, as their victim.

Uzo, Zawe and Laura signed my sketch at the Trafalgar stage door on Saturday.

Drawing: The Homecoming at the Trafalgar Studios

The Homecoming

Fifty years after it premiered in London, director Jamie Lloyd staged the anniversary production of Harold Pinter’s THE HOMECOMING at the Trafalgar Studios over the last three months.  Considered by many to be the English playwright’s masterpiece, the play opened at the Aldwych Theatre in June 1965, before its Broadway premiere two years later at The Music Box.

The story revolves around a villainous family and an unexpected reunion. This domestic war zone is inhabited by six characters, five of whom are male and related. Prodigal son and Philosophy Professor Teddy (Gary Kemp) returns home from America with his pretty but disturbed wife Ruth (Gemma Chan) to his grotty North London home, where retired butcher and fading family patriarch, (or as critic Dominic Cavendish calls him ‘paterfamilias’) Max (Ron Cook) exists with his camp chauffeur brother Sam (Keith Allen) and two sons, the quick-witted and toxic pimp Lenny (John Simm) and the dim-witted demolition man and  boxer-in-training Joey (John Macmillan).

“Jamie Lloyd’s excellent revival offers a fresh approach to the play without in any way violating the rhythms of Pinter’s text,” wrote Michael Billington in The Guardian.

This montage sketch took a few attempts to get graphed. Between the inclement weather, cast illness and exit variations,  I eventually managed to get it all sorted after the final matinee on Saturday.

Drawing: Rafa Nadal, The King of Clay

Rafa Nadal

The ‘King of Clay’ Rafa Nadal produced his best performance of the year to beat Andy Murray yesterday at the ATP World Tour Finals in London and secure a semi-final spot.

After an indifferent season, returning from injury the Spanish supremo is looking like returning to the form that has won him 14 Grand Slam titles to date. Currently ranked #5 in the world, he is considered the greatest clay court player of all time because of his dominance on the surface.

Always taking time for his fans, Rafa has signed a few sketches for me. This drawing celebrates his unprecedented nine French Open victories, which I managed to get signed on Sunday at the O2. I was particularly pleased because it is his ‘full’ signature which includes the ‘r nadal’ underneath and a nice dedication.

Drawing: Lia Williams and Angus Wright in ORESTEIA

Oresteia

The much-lauded ancient Greek tragedy ORESTEIA’s transfer from North London’s small Almeida Theatre to the Trafalgar Studios in the West End ended on Saturday. Once again I left it to the final curtain (well, final day) to get a sketch signed, with more than the usual obstacles in the way.

This is a sharp contemporary production of Aeschylus’s trilogy. The play is nearly four hours long so the matinee starts at 1pm. I had this drawing of the two leads; Lia Williams as Klytemnestra and Angus Wright as Agamemnon for some time and had tried on a couple of occasions to get it ‘graphed. From that I gathered that both went in earlier than the rest of the cast so I stationed myself at the stage door around 10.30am.

Right: obstacles. Firstly, preparations for the Rememberance Sunday service on Whitehall, where the Studios are located, were underway. There were the usual access restrictions, but this was insurmountable. Secondly, two large removal vans were parked outside the stage door for the removal of the set and associated production paraphernalia after the evening’s performance, blocking the entire street (well backs alley). These proved to be more “visual obstacles” as the cast could slip by unnoticed. Thirdly, it was raining cats and dogs, and elephants and giraffes, in fact a veritable weather zoo. The Trafalgar stage door has little cover, but its redeeming feature is a small covered corridor leading to the internal door. That proved a sig-saver.

Having built you up with all these potential problems, Lia and Angus arrived together at 11am and both signed in the said redeemable covered corridor so I could have written this in two sentences, but where’s the fun in that… it’s a Greek tragedy after all.

Drawing: Martin Freeman as Richard III

martin freeman richard lll

Martin Freeman made his Shakespearean debut on the London stage, transforming from a friendly Hobbit to a villainous sovereign in Jamie Lloyd’s  vigorous, contemporary production of Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios last summer. ‘Ricardian’s’, as the medieval monarch’s modern-day followers are called,  believe in the revisionists version of the last English King to fall in battle, which is in sharp contrast to the figure portrayed in the Bard’s version. Since supposedly finding his remains under a Council car park in Leicester and the pomp and pageantry surrounding the reburial, 529 and a half years after his demise, the stocks of the last Plantagenet ruler have risen appreciably. Archaeologists and academics have reconstructed the face of the skull and said he had much kinder features, therefore he couldn’t have been a tyrant. I kid you not.That’s of course if the car park bones are really Richards. Many believe they are not. So I guess casting  Bilbo Baggins with his genial guise as the bloodthirsty antagonist ‘slashing his way through the family tree en route to the throne’ allowed for some options if required.  A Tolkien gesture one could say. In the end, Martin played it as Wills intended (albeit shorter for modern attention spans) and played it well during the limited three month run.

I drew this sketch of Martin in the royal role, but never actually joined the hordes at the post-performance rituals. It stayed, along with others in my ‘pending’ folder, ready to be activated and penned when future opportunities warranted.  One such moment came a few months ago as he left the Donmar Warehouse as an audience member and he stopped to sign for a small horde. This is when I realised I should have revised my filing system in the said pending folder to allow me to find the necessary item within the restricted timeframe. I could have got him to sign Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Robert De Niro, or even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sketches though. It was only after he had left that I found his drawing. On Saturday evening he attended the BFI London Film Festival Awards. I had already got Cate earlier at the Truth premiere, so that eliminated one obstacle in my file. Plus I had the Richard III ready and when he emerged at a quarter past the witching hour with his agreeable face on, I got it graphed.