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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After premiering at the Royal Court Theatre in 2012, Nick Payne’s double-hander Constellations transferred to the Duke of York’s in the West End, then onto Broadway before returning to London after a short UK tour to the Trafalgar Studios for a four-week run last month.
Described as ‘a singular love story with infinite possibilities’, Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins played the original Roland and Marianne, the couple whose relationship is explored alongside the quantum multiverse theory. Jake Gyllenhaal made his Broadway debut with Ruth Wilson when the play moved to New York’s Manhatten Theatre Club in January 2013. The latest production featured Joe Armstrong and Louise Brealey taking to the stage, memorable for the glowing cluster of white balloons, which evoke, in the words of designer Tom Scutt, “synapses in the brain and atoms and sperm and weddings and parties..”…probably endless possibilities…like the play.
Louise sensibly walked to work on the Saturday when central London was gridlocked by a bike-mobilisation day so she arrived at the Trafalgar Studios with plenty of time to chat and sign my sketch. Joe biked…an unwilling participant in the RideLondon campaign, arriving late and dripping with perspiration. But he took the time to sign and christen my sketch with ink and a few drops of sweat.
Both Joe and Louise will appear in Husbands & Sons at the National’s Dorfman Theatre in October.
“One of the funniest and most touching moments to be seen on the current London stage… it’s a masterpiece” said The Stage about William Ivory’s Bomber’s Moon which is playing at London’s Trafalgar Studios until 23 May. Direct from a critically acclaimed run at the Park Theatre, this cross-generational two hander is directed by Matt Aston.
James Bolam plays ailing former RAF gunner Jimmy, living in a nursing home and Steve John Shepherd is his new care assistant David. Both have been through the wars. One is fighting the battle of infirmity and the injustices of ageing, the other is desperate to lay to rest the past and build a new further. Both are fighting for a lasting peace.
Thankfully James was the complete opposite to his cantankerous character and really liked the sketch but I missed Steve on the first attempt because he used the front door.
Being in two places at the same time would certainly be an advantage in this business. Still, I was in the right place the next day after a matinee and Steve completed the mission.