Drawing: Samantha Spiro in Lady Windermere’s Fan

Autographed drawing of Samantha Spiro in Lady Windemere's Fan at the Vaudeville Theatre on London's West End

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.

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Drawing: Kevin Bishop in Lady Windermere’s Fan

Autographed drawing of Kevin Bishop in Lady Windermere's Fan at the Vaudeville Theatre on London's West End

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.

Drawing: Jennifer Saunders in Lady Windermere’s Fan

Autographed drawing of Jennifer Saunders in Lady Windermere's Fan at the Vaudeville Theatre on London's West End

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.

Drawing: Grace Molony in Lady Windermere’s Fan

Autographed drawing of Grace Molony in Lady Windermere's Fan at the Vaudeville Theatre on London's West End

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.

Drawing: Eve Best, Anne Reid and Eleanor Bron in A Woman Of No Importance

Autographed drawing of Eve Best, Anne Reid and Eleanor Bron in A Woman of No Importance at the Vaudeville Theatre on London's West End

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.

Drawing: Emma Fielding in A Woman of No Importance

Autographed drawing of Emma Fielding in A Woman of No Importance at the Vaudeville Theatre on London's West End

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.

Drawing: F Murray Abraham in The Mentor

Oscar winner F Murray Abraham returned to the London stage after a 21 year absence in THE MENTOR at the Vaudeville Theatre in June. Written by the German novelist Daniel Kehlmann and translated by Christopher Hampton, F Murray plays a tetchy older author clashing with a younger dramatist in a compelling and humorous study of creative anxiety.

As usual F Murray was generous with his time at the stage door and signed this drawing for me, before the play finished its run last week.

Drawing: Dead Funny

dead-funny

“Painfully funny and funnily painful comedy,” said The Times about DEAD FUNNY, Terry Johnson’s homage to the golden age of British TV comedy. I was lucky enough to see the original production when it transferred from Hampstead to the Vaudeville Theatre in London’s West End in 1994, featuring Zoe Wanamaker and David Haig.

It returned to the same theatre this Autumn, again directed by the writer for a limited run until next February. Lead by Katherine Parkinson as Eleanor, the frustrated wife in a flatlining marriage who is desperate for a baby with her pompous, intimancy-phobic husband Richard, played by Rufus Jones. He gets his jollies chairing the Dead Funny Society, a group of nerdy, emotionally deficient comedy aficionados – Ralf Little (Nick), Steve Pemberton (Brian) and Emily Berrington (Lisa), who meet up in April 1992 when two of Britain’s cherished funnymen Benny Hill and Frankie Howard copped it on consecutive days to not only mourn, but celebrate their contribution to hilarity and laughter.

In the end it’s Eleanor who provides the final irony in the play, wrote Guardian critic Michael Billington, “even though she despises the Dead Funny Society, she is the only one with a sense of humour.

“Johnson’s classic brings laughs with a lump in the throat. Comedy may have changed radically since Johnson wrote the play, but it still holds a disturbing mirror up to all those of us who worship at the shrine of dead comics,” he concluded.

I managed get my montage signed by all five ‘Live Funny’ actors amongst the festive rush at the Vaudeville stage door over the past week.

Drawing: Hand to God

Hand to God

Described as Sesame Street meets The Exorcist, the irreverent puppet comedy HAND OF GOD took Broadway by storm last year, earning five Tony Nominations, including Best New Play. Robert Askin’s irreligious, satanic hand puppet hit has now transferred to the West End and possessed the Vaudeville Theatre. The London website sums up the plot. One dead father. One messed up family. One girl who wants help. One school bully who always gets his own way. One out of control hand puppet. Recently widowed Margery (Janie Dee) with a penchant for rough sex is encouraged by the randy minister Pastor Greg (Neil Pearson) to run a Christian puppetry workshop-The Christketeers – to spread the gospel in Cypress,Texas. It’s members of which include her son Jason (Harry Melling), the strange girl next door, Jessica (Jemima Rooper) who Jason has a crush on and neighbourhood troublemaker Timmy (Kevin Mains). Enter Tyrone, Jason’s devil-doll that acquires a separate identity turning into a foul-mouthed, unruly sock puppet who believes he’s Satan and takes possession of Jason’s left hand.

“You want the Devil? I’ll give you The Devil”, as his polycotton head spins 360 degrees.

As you could imagine, an interesting collection of characters to meet at the stage door to get my sketch signed. The hand of God had a bit to do with it. This is the second drawing I did. The first succumbed to the elements. A week back,as I was sheltering under some historical edifice and sorting sketches for the impending stalk, a gust of wind transported a few of them into the only muddy puddle within London’s Square Mile. HAND TO GOD was one of them. This replacement was subjected to a few sprinkles on Saturday, as I waited at the Vaudeville. Thankfully the cast were much nicer than the weather and nothing like their stage personae. Harry even left Tyrone in the dressing room and signed with his non-possessed hand. God knows what Tyrone would do with a sharpie!

Drawing: Antony Sher and Tara Fitzgerald in Broken Glass

Broken Glass

“Arthur Miller’s 1994 play towers over the dismal lowlands of current West End theatre like a majestic mountain peak.” wrote The Guardian’s Michael Billington in his five-star review of Broken Glass. Pretty impressive stuff from one of Britain’s leading critics.

The play focuses on Phillip and Sylvia Gellburg, a Jewish couple living in 1938 New York whose lives are affected by the anti-Semitic events of Kristallnacht (The night of Broken Glass) in Nazi Germany. Sylvia becomes paralysed from the waist down, a condition her doctor believes is psychosomatic and treats it as such. But what was the cause and who is the real cripple?

Originally staged in London at the National in 1994, this revival began at the Tricycle Theatre, a small fringe venue in Kilburn in late 2010. It returned for a month run in August the following year before transferring to the Vaudeville Theatre in the West End in September for a four month season. An excellent cast was headed by Antony Sher and Tara Fitzgerald in the lead roles. “Sher gives a superb performance of crippling anxiety…Fitzgerald brings a potent mixture of warmth,sensuality and grief,” wrote Charles Spencer of their performances in the Daily Telegraph. Both signed my sketch in person on a chilly winter’s evening at the stage door.