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.
Half a century after it’s premiere on the Old Vic stage, ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, the philosophical tragicomedy play that made a young Tom Stoppard’s name overnight, returned to the same venue with Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire in the title roles. Originally booked until the end of April, the season has been extended until this weekend due to popular demand.
It’s the ultimate identity crisis when two hapless minor characters, flipping coins while watching Shakespeare’s HAMLET from the wings. In his four-star review the Guardian’s Michael Billington said, “Radcliffe is perfectly matched by Joshua McGuire in a nimble hire-wire act that balances quickfire humour with a poignant awareness of death.” Both Dan and Joshua signed my sketch a couple of weeks ago after a Saturday evening performance at the Old Vic.
In one of my rare departures from the 4B, I did this 2010 sketch of Cherry Jones and Sally Hawkins in the Broadway revival of George Bernard Shaw’s ‘problem play’ MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION in a black fine line Pilot pen. Actually it was part of my black-liner-with-the-rogue-biro-thrown-in phase.
Sally actually signed it after she returned to the UK, so obviously Cherry wasn’t able to graph it. I got that chance last month to complete the sig-set when she made her West End debut at the Duke of York’s theatre in the Broadway transfer of Tennessee William’s THE GLASS MENAGERIE which is currently running until the end of the month.
American actor Brian J Smith’s portrayal of Jim O’Connor, the ‘gentleman caller’ in John Tiffany’s celebrated Procyon of Tennessee William’s THE GLASS MENAGERIE has garnered him award nominations on both sides of the Atlantic. He was shortlisted for both the Drama Desk and Tony Awards for the Broadway run at the Booth Theatre in 2013 and this year’s Oliviers after its transfer to London’s Duke of York’s Theatre, which finishes next week. Brian kindly signed this sketch for me a couple of weeks ago and he said he’s staying in London for another William’s play.
Simon Callow directs a brand new production of Christopher Hampton’s most celebrated play THE PHILANTHROPIST at London’s Trafalgar Studios, which opens this week after a fortnight of previews. It’s a ‘fiendishly clever inversion’ of Moliere’s THE MISANTHROPE, which the writer describes it as a ‘biting bourgeois comedy’, centring on an academic whose morbid compulsion to please everyone has the opposite effect.
After a ‘try-out’ at the Royal Court in London, the play premiered on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in March 1971. It was nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Play. “Christopher Hampton was 23 and it was his first big hit – a stonking success,” said Simon Callow, who has gathered together a young cast, light on theatre experience, but well known to TV audiences.
THE INBETWEENERS star Simon Bird makes his stage debut, joined by Tom Rosenthal, his co-star in Channel 4’s FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER, FRESH MEAT and CALL THE MIDWIFE’s Charlotte Ritchie, BAFTA winner Matt Berry from the IT CROWD and actress-model Lily Cole, who all signed my montage sketch heading in for Saturday’s matinee.
Tony Award winner, Alfie Boe first played Jean Valjean in the concert performance celebrating the 25th Anniversary of LES MISERABLES at London’s O2 arena in October 2010, before taking on the role in the full stage production at the Queen’s Theatre from June to November the following year. In 2015 he reprised the role at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway, succeeding Ramon Karimloo. He shared the 2003 Tony Award with the other principal leads of Baz Luhrmann’s LA BOHEME. He was born Alfred Giovanni Roncalli Boe to Irish-Norwegian parents in Blackpool. It’s the Italian name of Pope John XXIII. Thankfully he shortened it to ‘Alfie’, which takes less time to sign, and he did just that last Saturday at the London Coliseum, before the matinée of CAROUSEL in which he stars with Katherine Jenkins.
“She’s absolutely hysterical,” said Jimmy Carr about fellow comedian, Wendy Wason. The Sunday Times added “charming, clever and funny.’ The Edinburgh-raised actress and writer’s initial career was in film and TV, appearing in TAGGERT, SHERLOCK, MIDSOMMER MURDERS, THE IT CROWD and in feature films such as THE LIBERTINE with the three Johnnies, Depp, Malcovich and Vegas. She branched out into stand-up comedy in 2004 at Edinburgh’s Guided ballroom, followed by successful shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – THINGS I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW (2008), OTHER PEOPLES SECRETS (2010), FLASHBACKS (2011), HOTEL CALIFORNIA (2014) and last year, TINY ME, which she performed at the Soho Theatre in London for three nights last week. On one of those nights she signed this sketch for me.
The charismatic Irish actor David Fynn’s performance as the equally charismatic Dewey Finn in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest musical SCHOOL OF ROCK has earned him his first Olivier Award nomination. It’s based on the 2003 film, starring Jack Black in the Dewey role as a faded rocker who takes a job teaching at a posh prep school and enters the precocious pre-teens in the local Battle of the Bands contest. Lord Webber bought the stage rights and wrote the musical score with lyrics by Glen Slater and the book by fellow Lord and DOWNTON ABBY author Julian Fellowes.
It premiered at The Winter Gardens on Broadway in the Autumn of 2015 before transferring to the New London theatre in the West End this year to rave reviews. David’s no stranger to TV viewers appearing in GAME OF THRONES, SHERLOCK, DOCTOR WHO, and SPOOKS among others. He joined the Hollywood set three years ago as the gay barman Brett in NBC’s sitcom UNDATABLE.
But he’s also done his fair share of stage work and has been a lifelong fan of Lord Andrew’s work, recalling his first taste of musical theatre was JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOUR DREAMCOAT at the age of ten. “Musical theatre has always been in me,” he recently said in an interview, “Nothing beats the rush of theatre,”…except maybe winning an Olivier, which he’ll find out this weekend.
Milton Jones? “Oh that’s the bloke with the shirts and sticky-up hair,” most people would probably say, according to the man himself, a regular panallist on BBC Two’s MOCK THE WEEK and one of the UK’s stand-out stand-up comedians. Known for his one-liners involving puns delivered in a deadpan and slightly neurotic style, his loud shirts and wild hair… and his sublimely surreal takes on the world. “I was walking along the other day and on the road I saw a small dead baby ghost. Although, thinking about it, it might have been a handkerchief.”
MOCK THE WEEK can be a hard show to do. It’s always seven people trying to fit through a door for two he said in a recent interview. But his advantage is his style. “Yes I win. I do short bits. I get in, chuck a grenade and get out quickly.” It’s a style The Guardian acknowledged, “No one can touch Jones when he’s in his stride.”
He did a couple of nights at the Soho Theatre in London last week trying out new material for his next tour and signed my sketch with a two-liner.
For his last West End role Freddie Fox had less than 48 hours notice. It was just the minor part Romeo opposite Lily James in Kenneth Branagh’s ROMEO & JULIET at the Garrick Theatre last year, after the previous lead Richard Madden and his understudy Tom Hanson took the phrase ‘break a leg’ a bit too literally. He got the call on Friday and “they wanted me on stage Saturday” he said. Technically he knew the role, having played it 10 months earlier at The Crucible in Sheffield. He described the first night as ‘a memory test’ an making sure he stood in the right play and not fall off the stage.
For his next trick, Freddie’s latest stage appearance as the avant-garde dandy Tristan Tzara in Tom Stoppard’s ‘fiendishly-complicated’ TRAVESTIES, he had months to prepare. Directed by Patrick Marber, the Menier Chocolate Factory production sold out before it opened at the off-West End venue before transferring to the Apollo. It weaves together a fictionalised meeting between Vladimir Lenin, James Joyce and the Romanian-French writer Tzara in Zurich in 1917.
In his four-star review for the Evening Standard, Henry Hutchings wrote, “It’s Freddie Fox who dazzles, revelling in the anarchic energy of a character who’s part nuisance, part genius.” It’s a performance that has earned him a nomination for the best Supporting Actor Olivier Award at next month’s ceremony. Freddie signed this sketch for me at the stage door between shows last Saturday.