If you’re ever feeling a bit downcast, a couple of minutes with the absolutely delightful Susan Hampshire, who celebrated her 81st birthday recently, will take your blues away. I was feeling rather chipper in fact when I met Susan, one of my all time favourite actresses at the Vaudeville stage door last week, but felt even better after our brief encounter.
Susan is back on the London stage as Lady Markby in Jonathan Church’s star-studded revival of Oscar Wilde’s glittering comedy AN IDEAL HUSBAND. After an initial run at the Theatre Royal Bath last year, the production, settled into the Vaudeville Theatre in May for a two month residency as part of Classic Spring’s year-long Wilde season.
In his Guardian review, Michael Billington wrote, “Susan Hampshire brilliantly turns the gossiping Lady Markby into an unquenchable social gusher.” Paul Taylor, in the Independent continued the compliments, “Susan Hampshire is an absolute delight as Lady Markby, wittering away about modern manias in an hilarious tour de force of empty-headed high society prattling.”
My two-minute conversation with Susan included mutual admiration for each other’s artistic prowess, as she happily signed this character drawing I did of her.
Autographed drawing of Frances Barber in An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville Theatre on London’s West End
One of Britain’s finest actresses Frances Barber continues her impressive and comprehensive theatre repertoire as the blackmailing Mrs Laura Cheveley in the Classic Spring Company’s Oscar Wilde Season production of AN IDEAL HUSBAND at London’s Vaudeville Theatre.
Nominated for two Olivier Awards-CAMILLE (1985) and UNCLE VANYA (1997), Frances plays the femme fatale –”bitingly witty, famously well dressed, cruel, ambitious and above all, duplicitous” and repeatedly described throughout the play as the product of ‘horrid combinations’. She returns from Vienna as a ‘ghost from the past’ to expose and blackmail the much-admired politician Sir Robert Chiltern.
Frances signed my sketch last week at the stage door.
English actress Sally Bretton has returned to the London stage as the ‘too virtuous to be true’ Lady Chiltern in Oscar Wilde’s AN IDEAL HUSBAND, the penultimate production in Dominic Dromgoole’s year-long Wilde season at the Vaudeville Theatre.
Last seen as Goneril in KING LEAR at Shakespeare’s Globe a decade ago, Sally plays the adoring wife who believes she has found the ‘ideal husband’ in the upright and incorruptible politician Sir Robert Chiltern. But he harbours a dark secret.
Sally will also be known to TV viewers as Lucy Adams in NOT GOING OUT with Lee Mack and as Martha Lloyd in DEATH IN PARADISE. She signed my quick sketch at the Vaudeville stage door last week.
British actor Nathaniel Parker’s latest West End role is Sir Robert Chiltern, a rising politician with a secret past in the ‘Rolls-Royce of English comedies’, in Oscar Wilde’s AN IDEAL HUSBAND at the Vaudeville Theatre.
Nathaniel was last seen on the London stage in THE HOUSE at the Garrick two years ago and prior to that in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s acclaimed stage adaption of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning historical novel WOLF HALL and its sequel BRING UPTHE BODIES at the Aldwych Theatre before it transferred to the Winter gardens on Broadway with a title change WOLF HALL, PARTS 1 & 2 for American audiences. His memorable portrayal of King Henry VIII was recognised with both an Olivier and a Tony Award nomination. TV viewers will be familiar with Nathaniel’s lead role in the BBC crime drama series THE INSPECTOR LYNLEY MYSTERIES and as Lord Agravaine in MERLIN.
Nathaniel signed my sketch for me when he arrived at Vaudeville Theatre stage door on Saturday.
Double-Olivier Award Winner, Samantha Spiro has joined the Wilde side in the West End, as Dominic Dromgoole’s year-long Oscar Wilde season continues at the Vaudeville Theatre with the Kathy Burke helmed LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN. Samantha is Mrs Erlynne, the ‘other woman’ suspected of having an affair with Lady Windermere’s husband, with a secret twist revealed later in the play. Lyn Gardner wrote in her Guardian review, “Dripping charm and diamonds, Spiro’s superb as a scarlet woman doing unarmed combat with Victorian moralism.”
Samantha happily signed my drawing at the stage door a few weeks ago between Saturday performances.
English actor, writer and comedian Kevin Bishop plays the ‘dashingly funny’ (The Times) Lord Darlington in Kathy Burke’s ‘vividly fresh’ revival of Oscar Wilde’s LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN at London’s Vaudeville Theatre.
Kevin is well known to small screen fans for Channel 4’s comedy sketch series THE KEVIN BISHOP SHOW, which he co-wrote with Lee Hupfield and the BBC’s remake of the classic comedy PORRIDGE. His recent London stage appearances include the one-man show FULLY COMMITTED at the Menier Chocolate Factory in which he played 40 characters and ONCE IN A LIFETIME opposite Harry Enfield at the Young Vic.
Playing Lord Darlington gives Kevin a chance to work with two of his comedy heroes, Kathy Burke and Jennifer Saunders and deliver some of Wilde’s memorable lines, such as “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” I met Kevin as he was about to take his dog for a walk between shows on Saturday. I held the leash and he took my sharpie and signed my drawing.
After a 20 year wait, Jennifer Saunders has returned to the West End, this time as the imposing Duchess of Berwick in Kathy Burke’s production of Oscar Wilde’s LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN at the Vaudeville Theatre.
One of the most influential women in British television comedy, Jennifer kept to prominence as Vyvyan in THE YOUNG ONES and, with her comedy partner Dawn French, launched the sketch show FRENCH AND SAUNDERS in 1987, which became staple BBC viewing through to 2007. Let’s not forget the champagne-quaffing PR Edina Monsoon opposite Joanna Lumley in ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, among a raft of other memorable characters and appearances, collecting a truck-load of accolades along the way.
Her current stage performance has garnered equal plaudits, The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner calling her portrayal, “a monstrous star turn,” as “A Duchess with a walking stick like a taser and a hat like a homunculus.”
The two things Jennifer and I have in common is our age and being at the same stage door at the same time after Saturday’s matinee, where I asked her to sign this sketch. “Well done you,” she said, which is always a good sign.
Dominic Dromgoole’s year-long effort to stage all of Oscar Wilde’s plays at London’s Vaudeville Theatre continues with his four-act comedy, LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN.
Playing the title role is recent LAMBA graduate Grace Molony in her West End debut. Last year she won Best Actress in a Play at the Stage Debut Awards for her first professional role, playing Kate in THE COUNTRY GIRLS at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester.
The Telegraph’s Claire Allfree described her as a “freshly hatched chick, full of undimmed optimism and awkward passion.” As the funny, winsome and good-hearted Lady Windermere, who suspects her husband is having an affair, Grace “is terrific in a part where she has to hold her own against (Jennifer) Saunders’s stonkingly good Duchess of Berwick,” wrote Mark Brennan in The Times.
I met Grace at the stage door after Saturday’s matinee where she signed and inscribed my sketch.
Dominic Dromgoole’s ‘compassionate and emotionally engaging’ production of A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE launched a year-long season of Oscar Wilde at London’s Vaudeville Theatre late last year.
The outstanding cast was lead by Eve Best, Anne Reid and Eleanor Bron, who played Mrs Arbuthnot and Ladies Hunstanton and Pontefract respectively. The Irish playwright’s 1983 society play examines the hypocrisy of Victorian society in which woman are shamed and stigmatised for their sexual conduct and men do as they please.
I met Eve, Anne and Eleanor at the stage door, where they signed this montage, arriving for the Saturday matinee a week before the production completed its run on 30 December.
Multi-award winning English actress, Emma Fielding was part of an impressive ensemble in Oscar Wilde’s A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, which completed its run on Saturday after kicking-off the Oscar Wilde Season at London’s Vaudeville Theatre over the festive period. She played Mrs Allonby, who delivers a brilliant monologue about what makes an ideal man in a venue that is tailor-made for the production. “It’s the type of theatre the play’s written for with the traditional proscenium arch,” she said in a recent interview. I caught up with Emma and the cast arriving for a Saturday matinee a couple of weeks ago where she signed my sketch.