Susan Penhaligon, Louise Jameson, Lizzie Muncey and Sarah Moss in The Mousetrap

Autographed drawing of Sarah Moss as Miss Casewell in The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre on London's West End
Autographed drawing of Louise Jameson as Mrs Boyle in The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre on London's West End
Autographed drawing of Lizzie Muncey as Miss Casewell in The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre on London's West End

Agatha Christie’s genre-defining murder mystery play THE MOUSETRAP opened on the West End in 1952 and ran continuously until 16 March 2020, when it was discontinued as all London’s theatres went dark due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ending the longest initial run of any play in theatrical history. It will hopefully celebrate its 70th anniversary next year. As restrictions eased in England, the classic whodunnit resumed at St Martin’s Theatre on 17 May this year with two separate casts alternating each week.

As news spreads of a murder, a group of strangers find themselves snowed in at Monkswell Manor, a stately countryside guesthouse outside of London. When a police sergeant arrives, the guests discover that a killer is in their midst. Who will be the next victim? Two of the characters are Mrs Boyle, a pompous, pretentious critical older women who is a former court magistrate played by Susan Penhaligon and Louise Jameson and Miss Casewell, a strange, aloof, masculine woman who speaks off-handedly about her horrific childhood experiences was portrayed by Lizzie Muncey and Sarah Moss.

To mark the welcome return, I drew these sketches of the four cast members and left them at the theatre prior to The reopening, which they all kindly signed and returned. I added an additional image on Susan’s drawing of her as university student Prue Sorensen in ITV’s 1976 drama series BOUQUET OF BARBED WIRE.

Drawing: Victoria Lucie and Molly Roberts in The Mousetrap

Autographed drawing of Victoria Lucie and Molly Roberts in The Mousetrap at the St Martin's Theatre on London's West End

The world’s longest continuously running play for the past 68 years, Agatha Christie’s THE MOUSTRAP in London’s West End has finally ended its ‘initial’ run. On March 16 this year, when the British Prime Minister issued a statement in response to the Covid-19 pandemic advising people to avoid gathering in theatres, cinemas, bars and restaurants, the producers appropriately ‘suspended’ all performances until 30 June at the earliest. All theatre’s are now dark until further notice after the lockdown was formalised a week later.

The timeless tale of ‘whodunnit’ by the ‘Queen of mystery’, involving a small group of people who gather at Monkswell Manor, where a murder takes place during a blizzard, opened at the Ambassadors Theatre on 25 November 1952, running until Saturday 23 March 1974, before transferring next door to St Martin’s on the Monday. It has become a West End staple ever since.

One of my recent routines is to draw the actresses playing the strange and aloof Miss Casewell and the Manor’s co-proprietor, Mollie Ralston after each cast change – in this case, Victoria Lucie and Mollie Roberts respectfully, who now have the distinction of being part of final cast of THE MOUSETRAP’s ‘initial’ run. Victoria is making her West End debut and has just finished a TV pilot for NOIR-MAN. Mollie is the Artistic Director for Poleroid Theatre and is a regular on stage and screen, receiving multiple Off West End Award nominations.

Both signed my sketch prior to the lockdown.

Drawing: Sally Field, Bill Pullman and Jenna Coleman

Autographed drawing of actor Bill Pullman Autographed drawing of actor Jenna Coleman Autographed drawing of actor Sally Field

Jeremy Herrin’s revival of Arthur Miller’s early classic ALL MY SONS opened last month at the Old Vic theatre to critical acclaim. Amongst the stellar cast are three well known names, all making their London stage debuts. Double Oscar winner Sally Field is joined by Bill Pullman and Jenna Coleman.

Bill’s long stage career includes his role as Martin in Edward Albee’s THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA? at New York’s John Golden Theatre in 2002, alongside Mercedes Ruehl as Stevie. When the cast changed later that year, Bill Irwin replaced Bill, and Sally took over as Stevie in her Broadway debut. Jenna is making her first professional appearance in the West End after a number of high profile TV roles, including Clara Oswald in DOCTOR WHO and the Queen Victoria in the biographical drama VICTORIA.

Considered the play that made his name, Arthur Miller wrote ALL MY SONS in 1947, inspired by real-life events at an Ohio engineering firm who conspired to supply defected aircraft engines during the World War II.

Sally, fresh from her Tony-nominated appearance on Broadway last year in Tennessee William’s THE GLASS MENAGERIE, plays Kate Keller, trying to hold her family together, while refusing to accept the death of her pilot son, Larry who has been missing-in-action for the past three years. Bill is her husband Joe, exonerated after being charged for knowingly supplying the military with damaged aircraft engine cylinder heads, causing the death of 21 pilots and Jenna plays Annie, the late pilot’s sweetheart.

I was fortunate to meet all three early on in rehearsals at the Old Vic, where they kindly signed their respective sketches for me.

The 2019 Laurence Olivier Awards – a selection of six winners

The 2019 Laurence Olivier Awards, recognising excellence in London theatre was held last Sunday at the Royal Albert Hall. Here’s a 4B pencil tribute to a selection of six winners who all signed their respective sketches over the past year.

Sharon D. Clarke, Best Actress in a Musical for her title role in CAROLINE, OR CHANGE at the Playhouse Theatre, signed in person at the theatre last December.

Autographed drawing of Sharon D Clarke in Caroline, Or Change at the Playhouse Theatre on London's West End

Patti LuPone, Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical for her portrayal of Joanne in Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY at the Gielgud Theatre, signed at the stage door in October last year.

Autographed drawing of actress Patti LuPone

Patsy Ferran, Best Actress for SUMMER AND SMOKE, signed at the Duke of York’s Theatre on 18 December 2018, following a West End transfer after a sold-out run at the Almeida Theatre.

Autographed drawing of Patsy Ferran and Matthew Needham in Summer and Smoke at the Duke of York's Theatre on London's West End

Kyle Soller, Best Actor for his role as Eric Glass in the Young Vic’s two-part epic, THE INHERITANCE at the Noel Coward Theatre, signed at the stage door in January this year.

Autographed drawing of Kyle SOller and Andrew Burnap in The Inheritance at the Noel Coward Theatre on London's West End

Kobna Holbrook-Smith, Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Ike Turner, in TINA,THE MUSICAL, signed at the Aldwych Theatre’s stage door late last year.

Autographed drawing of Kobna Holdbrook-Smith in Tina The Musical at the Aldwych Theatre on London's West End

Chris Walley, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for playing the teenager Davey in THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE, also signed at the Noel Coward stage door last summer.

Autographed drawing of Chris Walley in The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Noel Coward Theatre on London's West End

Drawing: Gemma Barnett in A Hundred Words For Snow

Autographed drawing of Gemma Barnett in A Hundred Words For Snow at the Trafalgar Studios on London's West End

Tatty Hennessy’s ‘outrageously funny and deeply moving’ coming-of-age tale… with polar bears, A HUNDRED WORDS FOR SNOW has transferred to London’s West End with a flurry of excellent reviews and accolades after successful appearances at The Vaults and the Arcola Theatre last year.

Directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson, the one hour, one person play, which mixes polar exploration with teenage awkwardness will run in the Trafalgar Studio 2 until the end of the month. Oxford school of Drama graduate Gemma Barnett plays Rory – short for Aurora – a young woman determined to scatter her dad’s ashes at the North Pole. It was a trip they had planned before he suddenly died in an accident, one last expedition, which the Guardian’s Michael Billington called an “extraordinary story. “The play explores the difficulties and desires of growing up and searching the unknown in a melting world, covering the themes of climate change, feminism and self-discovery.”

As Tatty points out, it’s very relevant, given the UN’s latest stark and startling Climate Chang report. “How traumatic, isolating and overwhelming it must be to lose someone you love and to lose them at 15, to be grieving during puberty,” said Gemma in an interview for London Theatre Direct.

I caught up with Gemma last Saturday at the stage door after her matinee performance, described by James FitzGerald in his WhatsOnStage review as “impassioned and intoxicating,” where she signed my sketch.

Drawing: Danny Dyer in The Dumb Waiter

Autographed drawing of Danny Dyer in The Dumb Waiter at the Harold Pinter Theatre on London's West End

A “propa nawty geezer” is how one interviewer described the parts English actor Danny Dyer is famed for, the  generic ‘hard man-with-a-heart’. He returned last month to the West End stage as a killer in Harold Pinter’s THE DUMB WAITER, which was part of the Pinter Seven double bill with A SLIGHT ACHE.

It concluded the PINTER AT THE PINTER season, Jamie Lloyd’s ambitious box-set approach to all of the Nobel Laureate’s 21 one-act plays over the past 21 weeks at the theatre named after him.

THE DUMB WAITER, written in 1957 is set in a basement of a Birmingham restaurant, where two cockney hit men, Gus and Ben are preparing to execute an unknown victim as a dumb waiter (a shelf on pulleys) descends from above with food requests. Danny played Ben alongside Martin Freeman as Gus.

Jamie said that Danny, who had a close friendship with the playwright was one of Harold’s favourite actors and considered him a protégé “There were no airs and graces about Harold,” said Danny, “I learned so much from him that set me up for the rest of my career.”  THE DUMB WAITER is Danny’s fourth Pinter play. He met Harold in 1999, who cast him as the waiter in CELEBRATION at London’s Almeida Theatre, which transferred to New York’s Lincoln Centre in 2001 as part of the Harold Pinter Season. He followed that with the role of Foster in NO MAN’S LAND at the National Theatre and in 2008 as Joey in THE HOMECOMING back at the Almeida.

Danny’s breakthrough came in 1997 in the cult film HUMAN TRAFFIC as the mad raver Moff. He later said in a Guardian interview that it wasn’t much of a transition “That role was me. I was still living it then. It was the only audition where the first question was “Do you take drugs?” I said, “Yes, I love drugs.” They said, ‘Perfect.”  Since 2013 he has played The Queen Victoria pub’s landlord Mick Carter in the BBC TV soap EASTENDERS, winning three National Television Awards.

I left this sketch of Danny as Ben at the stage door on the final day of the PINTER AT THE PINTER season and it came back signed and dedicated with a nice inscription.

Drawing: Arabella Neale and Emily Plumtree in The Mousetrap

Autographed drawing of Arabella Neale in The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre on London's West EndAutographed drawing of Emily Plumbtree in The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre on London's West End

Continuing my recent ritual of rendering the roles of Miss Casewell, the proprietor of Monkswell Manor and the strange, aloof Molly Ralston after each cast change in Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery THE MOUSETRAP at St Martin’s Theatre in London, I caught up with Arabella Neale and Emily Plumtree just before Christmas, who both kindly signed their respective sketches. Described as the ‘best-selling novelist of all time’, Dame Agatha initially wrote the play for radio in the late 1940’s, calling it THREE BLIND MICE. With the title changed, THE MOUSETRAP opened in the West End in 1952 and now, in its 67th year, is the longest initial run of any play in the history of modern theatre, passing 27,500 performances in September last year.

Amongst Arabella’s high profile stage roles, are Madame Thernardier in LES MISERABLES, Beatrice in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and the Duchess in THE DUCHESS OF MALFI. She recently featured in the award-winning BBC television mini-series A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL opposite Hugh Grant.

ENDEAVOUR, HOLYOAKS and DOCTORS are among Emily’s list of small-screen credits. Her theatre work includes the part of Nerissa in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, which she reprised at the Almeida Theatre in London, both directed by Rupert Goold. She was nominated for an Off West End Theatre Award for her performance as Anita in MY GIRL 2.

Drawing: Denis Conway, Ciaran Dowd, Farzana Dua Elahe, Niall McNamee, Shane O’Regan, Donal Finn and Niamh Bracken in Chasing Bono

Autographed drawing of Denis Conway, Ciaran Dowd, Farzana Dua Elahe, Naill McNamee, Shane O'Regan, Donal Finn and Niamh Bracken in Chasing Bono at London's Soho Theatre

The pencil thin line between success and failure is vividly illustrated in the 90 minute play CHASING BONO, which has just completed its run at London’s Soho Theatre on Saturday.

In the 1970’s, Neil McCormack and Paul Henson, schoolmates at Mount Temple Comprehensive in Dublin shared the same ambition, to form bands and become global superstars. Paul changed his name to Bono and formed U2. Neil didn’t. The latter, the Telegraph’s esteemed chief pop and rock critic, is a successful author, radio pundit and television presenter, none of which remotely compensates for being a failed rock star. It was probably worse for his brother Ivan, who was offered a spot in Paul’s band ‘Feedback’, renamed ‘The Hype’ before becoming U2. But Neil persuaded him to stick with his group for a guaranteed shot at stardom.

CHASING BONO was written by ‘master mirth-makers’ Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (THE LIKELY LADS, PORRIDGE, AUF WIEDERSEHEN, PET and THE COMMITMENTS) and is a stage adaption of their darker 2011 film KILLING BONO, which in turn was based on Neil’s 2003 memoirs, ‘I was Bono’s Doppelgänger’.

Critic Anne Cox writing in StageReview said it was a “charming piece, packed with cracking Irish humour and good performances… part rock-fable, part whimsy and part ridiculous screwball comedy.”

The cast is lead by Niall McNamee as Neil and Shane O’Regan as Bono, with Denis Conway, Ciaran Dowd, Farzana Dua Elahe, Donal Finn and Niamh Bracken, all of kindly signed my portrait montage for me at the Soho.

Drawing: Patsy Ferran and Matthew Needham in Summer and Smoke

Autographed drawing of Patsy Ferran and Matthew Needham in Summer and Smoke at theDuke of York's Theatre on London's West End

The West End transfer of the Rebecca Frecknall’s remarkable Almeida Theatre’s sell-out production of Tennessee Williams’ ‘most neglected work’, SUMMER AND SMOKE continues at the Duke of York’s until Saturday.

Set in a small Mississippi town one hundred years ago it centres on Alma Winemiller, a minister’s daughter and singing teacher who cares for her ailing mother, and her moth-like attraction to John Buchanan, an angry and resentful trainee doctor. It’s a devastating fable of half-requited love, missed moments and the ways we waste what little life we have, summarised in the byline, ‘Trapped between desire and a life of obligation, Alma meets John and her world turns upside-down.’

In his Variety review, Matt Trueman wrote, “It boasts two phenomenal performances at its heart: Patsy Ferran is a quiver of anxiety as Alma; Matthew Needham’s John, a river of despair. You will them together, knowing full well they’re bound to tear each other apart. It’s agonising to watch.”

Patsy and Matthew both signed my sketch late last year at the theatre.

Drawing: Kit Harington and Johnny Flynn in True West

Auotographed drawing of Kit Harington and Johnny Flynn in True West at the Vaudeville Theatre on London's West End

Kit Harington and Johnny Flynn are currently playing warring brothers Austin and Lee until next month in the West End revival of Sam Shephard’s ‘ferociously funny’

TRUE WEST at London’s Vaudeville Theatre. Described as a classic study of sibling rivalry, the 1980 play was a finalist for the Drama Pulitzer Prize. Austin is a clean-cut family man and Hollywood writer who has retreated to his mother’s Southern California home to finish a screenplay. He is disrupted by Lee, his older, feral brother, a petty thief and drifter, who has been wandering the Mojave Dessert for past three months.

In his Guardian review, Michael Billington points out that, “putting it crudely, Austin and Lee are both sides of a single personality – the instinctual and the intellectual aspects of the American character,” and summarises the performances, “At their best, the two actors are very good. Harington is especially convincing in the later stages as Austin unleashes his inner fury, aiming wild, drunken swings at the empty air and threatening to strangle his brother with a whipcord. Flynn also captures Lee’s initial menace as he hovers in a bullying manner over his brother and turns a golf club swing into a virtual death threat.”

Both Kit and Johnny kindly signed my drawing at the stage door prior to Christmas, and not a golf club in sight.