Drawing: Jemma Redgrave in The Great Game: Afghanistan

Autographed drawing of Jemma Redgrave in The Great Game: Afghanistan at the Tricycle Theatre in London and Public Theater in New York

THE GREAT GAME: AFGHANISTAN premiered at London’s Tricycle Theatre in April 2009, directed by Nicolas Kent and Indhu Rubasingham and featured English actress Jemma Redgrave, before transplanting to New York’s Public Theater the following year.

It’s a chronological history of foreign involvement in Afghanistan since 1842. Described as a ‘play of epic proportions’… it’s actually 12 playlets, divided into three sets of four, that required seven hours of on-stage acting. With intermissions it turned into a 12 hour theatrical marathon for cast and audience.

Jemma, a fourth generation actress from of the Redgrave dynasty, appeared in four of the 12. Her early stage career included the role of Irina in the 1990 revival of Anton Chekhov’s THE THREE SISTERS alongside aunts, Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave – the first and only time they have appeared in a theatre production together.

Jemma is also a familiar face on the small screen, playing Eve Granger in COLD BLOOD and Major Bernice Wolfe on the BBC medical drama HOLBY CITY, among many more. She signed my sketch at the Old Vic last month while she was appearing in MOOD MUSIC.

Drawing: The Mother at the Tricycle Theatre

The Mother

The Freudian drama, THE MOTHER  is Florian Zeller’s companion piece to THE FATHER, the French dramatists’ brilliant tale of an old man with Alzheimer’s, which transferred from Kilburn’s Tricycle Theatre to the West End last year, and is due to return this month.
The follow-up Royal Theatre Bath production is on transfer to the Tricycle from its Ustinov Studio and looks likely to also make it to the West End after it completes it’s sell-out run at the North London venue in early March. Both plays have been translated into English by Christopher Hampton.

THE MOTHER is a haunting portrait of Anne, (Gina McKee) a mother losing her grip. Her sense of reality is under attack as her fear of slipping into the void once she’s no longer needed takes hold. The children have left the nest and her 25 year-old marriage to Peter, (Richard Clothier) is crumbling as he spends all his time at work and probably sleeping with his secretary. Her son Nicholas (William Postlethwaite) and his racy girlfriend Elodie (Frances McNamee) complete the quartet. Is his appearance part of a regular apparition or does he actually visit? “This time, he’s here,” Anne cries.

The ArtsDesk critic Marianka Swain described Gina’s portrayal of a mother’s primal grief as, “riveting…. as she ricochets between vicious barbs and defeated slumps, giddy elation and despairing vulnerability”.

I managed to catch-up with Richard and William before a Saturday matinee in my attempt to get this sketch signed by all four cast members. They very kindly said they would get it done for me and so they did.

Drawing: Ben Jones as Messala in Ben Hur

Ben Jones Ben Hur

As promised in my previous BEN HUR post I have now put the Ben into BEN HUR. As you will recall the other three members – John Hopkins, Alix Dunmore and Richard Durden signed my sketch at the North London’s Tricycle Theatre last week. I threatened to return with a sketch of the missing fourth member of the quartet who are currently enthralling sell-out audiences in Patrick Barlow’s follow-up to his West End hit adaption of THE 39 STEPS with this pocket-sized interpretation of the 50’s biblical film hit. Ben plays Messala (yes… and as one reviewer put it, the wait for the ‘Messala chicken’ line is rapidly rewarded), a pouting Roman soldier who betrays Ben Hur, among others characters including a ‘particularly nice turn as Jesus with a bad black wig’. Messala and Messiah- sounds like an ancient pop duo.

Anyway, here’s Ben on his own as Messala which he signed for me last night so that completes my BEN HUR set. Ben there, done that. Ouch.

Drawing: Ben Hur at the Tricycle Theatre

Ben Hur

The William Wyler 1959 blockbuster BEN HUR won 11 Oscars with a cast of thousands, including 10.000 extras, 365 speaking parts, 2,500 horses, a swelling score, the entire Roman Empire, chariot racing, sea battles, a galley of half-naked slaves, glistening torsos, Charlton Heston, did I mention the Roman Empir…oh yes I did. Tim Carroll’s production is a more modest version, not quite the biblical proportions of the original epic, but has kept some elements and a cast of….ur …four. But an excellent one  at that.The energetic quartet playing  hapless fictional thesps, staging the show are John Hopkins, Ben Jones, Richard Durden and Alix Dunmore who endlessly recycle themselves into various characters.

I remember seeing John in the ‘superlatively skewered’ Hitchcock spy spoof THE 39 STEPS a few years ago. The hit show, which was described as one of the best things to come out of the West End in the last decade, played London’s Criterion Theatre for nine years, winning multiple awards and is currently on a National Tour.

The very same playwright, Patrick Barlow is responsible for this pocket-sized, ‘redux maximus’ adaption, which began life in 2012 at The Watermill Theatre in Newbury, and has been subject to numerous rewrites since. The latest version is currently being staged at the Tricycle Theatre in North London.

“The thing with bad comedy is that it needs, paradoxically, to be really good indeed to be funny and this is very funny”, declared Jane Shilling in The Telegraph. She says ‘The jokes are signalled from so far off that when they arrive, you greet them like old friends.” Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard decreed it “a palpable hit.”

I drew this sketch of John, Richard and Alix from the promo poster. It’s probably not right that Ben is missing from a BEN HUR drawing, so I will have to do a separate one and return. I caught up with them after last Saturday’s matinee and got the sketch signed.

It runs until 9 January at the Tricycle, although John said that it may transfer to the West End.

Drawing: Handbagged at the Vaudeville Theatre


Undoubtably one of the theatrical highlights of the past year was Handbagged, Moira Buffin’s latest play tells the tales of the Queen’s weekly meetings with Margaret Thatcher. Premiering at the Tricycle Theatre in October 2013, the sold out run won an Olivier Award and transferred to the West End. It was commissioned by the Tricycles new artistic director Indu Rubasingham.

The play arrived at the Vaudeville Theatre with the cast more or less in tact; only Clare Holman was substituted as the younger monarch by Lucy Robinson. As the slogan stated “Liz. Maggie. Tea at four. Handbags at dawn.”

Two enduring icons of the 20th Century, born six months apart – what did the world’s most powerful women talk about? It’s a shrews piece that cleverly explores what might have gone on behind closed doors.

The play’s runaway success, and unanimous critical acclaim, depended in large on the brilliant performances of its four actresses who play older and younger versions of the two leaders. Marion Bailey is the older monarch sitting in judgement of her younger self, and the older Maggie played by Stella Gonet looks back on the woman that she was in office “embodied with all her mannerisms down to a T” by Fenella Woolgar. As The Telegraph’s Tim Walker stated in his five star review, “only a director of Indhu Rubasingham’s sensitivity could cope with the gear changes that shift the action form slapstick to moments of unbearable pathos.”

All four kindly singed my sketch in the final week, as the play completed its Vaudeville run on Saturday 2 August.

Drawing: Adrian Lester in Red Velvet at the Tricycle Theatre

Adrian Lester001

Adrian Lester signed my sketch at the Tricycle Theatre on the final day of the RED VELVET season.The award-winning play, written by his wife Lolita Chakrabarti, is the story of Ira Aldridgeo – the first African-American actor of note to perform on stage in Victorian London. He is considered to be one of the greatest Shakespearen thespians of the 19th Century. Adrian and Lolita both won awards at the recent London Critics’ circle Theatre Awards.

Known for his role as con man Mickey Bricks in the TV series HUSTLE, it did cross my mind that a ‘mark’ in grifter’s terms means ‘a target’…. a thought best left as a thought as he, as usual, graciously signed and dedicated the drawing.