The real-life experience of Northern Irish actress Laura Donnelly inspired the plot for Jez Butterworth’s latest hit play THE FERRYMAN, directed by Sam Mendes, which became the fastest selling production at the Royal Court earlier this year and has now transferred to the Gielgud in London’s West End.
The disappearance and murder of Laura’s uncle Eugene Simmons was the basis for this Troubles-era story. She was only a child, but remembers how he was taken away by the IRA, shot and his body dumped in a bog. Laura, best known to TV audiences for her roles in CASULTY, MERLIN and BEOWULF worked with Jez on his play THE RIVER at the Royal Court alongside Dominic West and Miranda Raison and on Broadway with Hugh Jackman.
Laura has attracted high critical praise for her portrayal of the victim’s widow, Caitlin Carney in THE FERRYMAN and signed my drawing of her in the role at the stage door last month.
British actor Anthony Head is probably best known globally as the stuffy Librarian Rupert Giles in TV’s BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, but his stage beginnings were much more elevated, debuting as Jesus in GODSPELL, which lead to his complete role-reversal at the opposite end of the character scale, the sweet transvestite himself, Frank N. Furter in THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at London’s Piccadilly Theatre in 1998. He later claimed his Frank was much more demonic than any of the Franks that went before.
I drew this montage of Anthony which includes him as Frank, Captain Hook in the PETER PAN at the Savoy Theatre in 2003 and his latest outing as Cabinet Minister Sir John Fletcher in Trevor Nunn’s critically acclaimed production of Rattigan’s LOVE AND IDLENESS, which has just completed its run at the Apollo after transferring from the Menier Chocolate Factory. He happily signed it for me at the stage door, after a Saturday matinee last month.
“Paddy Considine puts in a phenomenal performance as a father fighting against his past,” wrote Variety’s Matt Trueman in his review of Jez Butterworth’s latest masterpiece, THE FERRYMAN, directed by Sam Mendes, which transferred from the Royal Court to the Gielgud Theatre last month. It’s Paddy’s professional stage debut and the double BAFTA winner has earned unanimous critical praise. Michael Billington in his five-star Guardian review described his performance as “uncompromising brilliance”.
Paddy signed my drawing before last Saturday’s matinee.
Patti LuPone is musical theatre royalty on both sides of the Atlantic. Since making her professional debut 45 years ago she has played every major role and won every major West End and Broadway accolade, including the Olivier and two Tonys. She’s also collected a couple of Grammys for good measure.
Patti originated the title role of Eva Peron in the 1979 Broadway production of EVITA, picking up her first Tony. She played the part of Fantine in the original London cast of LES MISERABLES in 1985, the same year she appeared as Moll in THE CRADLE WILL ROCK, winning the Olivier for both roles. In 2008 she won her second Tony for portrayal of Rose in the Broadway revival of GYPSY.
Her latest appearance on the Great White Way is as Helena Rubinstein in WAR PAINT at the Nederlander Theatre, which garnered her seventh Tony nom. I sent her this montage sketch in March this year at the theatre and it came back dedicated and signed.
New Zealander Sam Wills and his alter – ego Tape Face found International notoriety last year, reaching the finals of America’s Got Talent, where he was the ‘most buzzed- about’ contestant. Described as a ‘modern day Chaplin’ Sam’s contemporary comedic mime revives silent film acting with a piece of tape over his mouth and the traditional stripped shirt, using facial expressions and body movements to captivate his audiences.
He began performing as an apprentice clown at the age of 13. Sam rarely gives interviews to continue the illusion of not speaking, although he was happy to chat in our antipodean accents with a fellow London-based Kiwi and sign my sketch before his matinee show at the Garrick Theatre where he is resident until 23 July.
One of Broadway’s genuine musical theatre superstars has finally made her West End debut. Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald made her long awaited London stage appearance last month, reprising her 2014 Broadway role as Billie Holiday in LADY DAY AT THE EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL at Wyndham’s Theatre.
“One legend playing another,” wrote Michael Billington in his Guardian review. Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph said her performance was “pouring divine nectar into your ears; here, beautifully modulated, is all the playfulness, mischief, yearning, sadness and stoicism to be found in those crackling records of long ago.”
Audra is the first person to win six Tonys for acting and the first person to win the award in all four acting categories. She has also collected Grammy and Emmy Awards. Her Tony winners are CAROUSAL (1994), MASTER CLASS (1996), RAGTIME (1998), A RAISIN IN THE SUN (2004), PORGY AND BESS (2012) and LADY DAY (2014).
It was an absolute pleasure to meet her at the stage door a couple of weeks ago as she arrived for the Saturday matinee. She loved the drawing and graciously signed it for me.
British actor Peter Davison came to prominence as Tristan Farnon in James Herriot’s ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL before becoming the fifth incarnation of the Doctor in DOCTOR WHO. He is coincidently the real life father in law of the tenth Doctor David Tennant.
Apart from his extensive TV work Peter has a distinguished stage career including two of his recent appearances, as Professor Callahan in LEGALLY BLONDE and Herbie in GYPSY, both at the Savoy Theatre in London. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for the latter. I dropped this sketch off at the theatre, having missed Peter a couple of times at the stage door and it eventually came back signed.
I always like drawing David Tennant- so expressive and he has always been kind enough to sign my scribblings over the years. His latest West End outing is the rakish titular lead in Patrick Marber’s revival of his own play DON JUAN IN SOHO at the Wyndham’s Theatre.
Last seen eleven years ago at the Donmar with Rhys Ifans, the play is a free-flowing update of Moliere’s 1665 comedy about a well- heeled hedonist. David is no stranger to seduction at Wyndham’s, having played the part of Benedick in Josie Rourke’s 2011 production of Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING alongside Catherine Tate.
David’s portrayal of the ‘Satan in a suit from Saville Row’ drew universal praise from the critics. The Guardian’s Michael Billington stating “It is Tennant’s performance that gives the play a disturbing ambivalence.” Eleanor Turney simply said “He’s an absolute bastard, but a charming one.”
English actor and BAFTA-winner John Adedayo B. Adegboyega, known by his stage name John Boyega has returned to the stage after finding International success as the rogue stormtrooper Finn in the seventh film in the STAR WARS series, THE FORCE AWAKENS. He’s come a long way from his first stage role as a leopard in a primary school play.
John is currently playing a British soldier patrolling the East/West border in Berlin during the 1980’s in an adaption by Jack Thorne of the 19th century play WOYZECK by the German playwright Georg Buchner. A handful of us caught up with John at stage door before last Saturday’s matinee when he stopped to sign some graphs, including my sketch. An hour later he was back outside the theatre with other cast and crew and the audience, who were all evacuated to the nearby Imperial Museum Gardens after a bomb threat stopped the play 15 minutes into the performance.
Alongside Vaslav Nijinsky, Vladimir Vasiliev and Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov is considered one of the greatest ballet dancers in history. He returned to the London stage last week, not as a dancer, but reading the poetry of Nobel Laurate Joseph Brodsky, who was one of the first people Mikhail meet in New York when he defected from the Soviet Union in 1974.
Joseph was a huge influence on ‘Misha’ In the years the later revolutionised and popularised ballet as a performer and choreographer, while launching a successful parallel career as an actor, earning an Oscar nomination playing Yuri Kopeikine in the 1977 film THE TURNING POINT. Their relationship forms the basis for Latvian director Alvin Hermanis’s experimental theatre piece, BRODSKY/BARYSHNIKOV in which Mikhail reads his friend’s poetry in the original Russian. After productions in Riga, Te Aviv and New York Mikhail, performed the show for five nights at the Apollo Theatre in London, where I managed to meet him at the stage door and he signed my sketch.