Welsh actress Lisa Palfrey was appearing as Big Mama in the Young Vic’s West End production of Tennessee William’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the Apollo Theatre… until an emergency appendectomy cut short her performance last month. Initially understudy Kate Britain covered until Kiwi actress Kerry Fox stepped into the role until Lisa recovered. She signed this sketch for me a week before the unscheduled appendix removal.
English actor and singer Joe Millson was attracted back to the London stage by the script of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s APOLOGIA, which is currently running at the Trafalgar Studios until November. Joe plays both sons; the calm but troubled Simon and the thick-skinned banker Peter, who attend their mother’s (Stockard Channing) birthday, a matriarchal figure and famous art historian who has just published her memoirs neglecting to mention her them.
It was originally drafted for two actors but it was director, Jamie Lloyd’s innovation to use one. “It’s very light, easy-to-watch stuff, but leaves you with a punch in the gut,” said Joe in a recent interview. Theatre critic, Neil Dowden, writing his review in Exeunt wrote, “Joseph Millson excels in contrasting Peter’s self-confident directness with Simon’s subdued, more obliquely accusing manner.” I did suggest to Joe, while he was signing my sketch at the stage door, that they should be paying him double for the dual roles, an idea that appealed.
Hayley Squires performance as single mum Katie in Ken Loach’s multi-award winning film I, DANIEL BLAKE catapulted her into the international spotlight, earning a BAFTA nomination and winning a number of accolades including the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her latest role is the complete opposite, making her West End debut in the Young Vic production of Tennessee William’s steamy southern family drama CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF opposite Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell at the Apollo Theatre. Hayley plays Mae, the scheming sister-in -law which The Times critic Ann Treneman called a “stand-out performance.” She signed my drawing a month ago at the stage door.
DOCTOR WHO’s Freema Agyeman made her West End debut last month in the revival of Alexei Kaye Campbell’s family drama APOLOGIA at the Trafalgar Studios. Known as Martha Jones,the Time Lord’s companion and Alesha Phillips in LAW & ORDER:UK, Freema plays Claire, the unrepentant girlfriend. Ironically she turned down a chance to debut on stage at the Donmar sixteen years ago for a role in the soap CROSSROADS, now appears for the first time on the London boards as a spirited soap star. She signed this sketch I drew at the stage door after a Saturday evening performance a few weeks ago.
Multi-award winning actress, writer and comedian Miranda Hart made her West End and musical debut in Nikolai Foster’s stylish revival of the family musical ANNIE at the Piccadilly Theatre in June this year.
Playing the hilariously spiteful, gin-soaked NYC orphanage manageress Miss Agatha Hannigan, Miranda continues in the role until the end of this week.
She has garnered great reviews with the Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish writing, “Half gorgon, half goofball, all-round pleasure, she daftly-deftly combines menace with physical comedy lurching into view through scary-tall dormitory doors, sending her grubby young charges screaming as if from a fire-breathing dragon.”
Miranda kindly signed and returned my Miss H sketch for me after I left it at the theatre.
After a sell-out run at the Almeida Theatre, Richard Icke’s acclaimed adaption of Shakespeare’s HAMLET transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End in June with BAFTA and double Olivier-winner Andrew Scott as the Danish Prince.
In her five-star Guardian review, Kate Kellaway called the production “an all-consuming marvel. Andrew Scott’s prince proves a brilliant communicator.”
Andrew signed my drawing for me after I left it at the stage door.
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.
Since playing DOWNTON ABBEY’s Lady Edith for the last time in 2015, Southampton- born Laura Carmichael has been developing an impressive stage career. Last year she appeared in Jamie Lloyd’s THE MAIDS at the Trafalgar Studios and has returned to the intimate London venue this month in another one of his productions, the revival of Alexei Kaye Campbell’s 2009 spiky family drama APOLOGIA.
“However, it’s Carmichael who – released from the corsets of DOWNTON ABBEY – almost steals the show from Stockard Channing. She’s superb as American physiotherapist Trudy, turning uptick lilt of every nervous platitude into comedy gold”, wrote Tom Wicker in his The Stage review.
Laura signed my Trudi sketch at the stage door after last Saturday’s matinee performance.
Dutch songstress Willemijn Verkaik has played the central role of Elphaba in the Musical WICKED over 2,000 times in London, Europe and Broadway, which is more than anyone else and is the only person to have played the role in three different languages – English, Dutch and German. She made her West End debut at the Apollo Victoria in 2013, but for health reasons left the show eight months later, only to return in January this year as part of the show’s 10th Anniversary celebrations. Her final performance was on the 22nd of July. In an online poll of 16,000 voters she was chosen as the ‘Wicked Personality of the Year’. It took me a while, missing Willemijn on a few occasions at various venues, but I finally got my sketch signed prior to her departure at the Apollo.
Irishman Brian Gleeson, together with father Brendan and older brother Domhnall form a formidable family trio of actors. Since starting his career in 2006 alongside his father in John Boorman’s THE TIGER’S TAIL, Brian has balanced his work between stage and screen. All three actually appeared on the Dublin boards together for four weeks in Enda Walsh’s THE WALWORTH FARCE in 2015.
He is currently playing Brick’s (Jack O’Connell) conspirational brother Gooper in the Young Vic’s West End revival of Tennessee William’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the Apollo, where he signed my sketch for me last week.