Drawing: Milton Jones

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.

Drawing: Freddie Fox in Travesties

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.

Drawing: Leanne Cope in An American In Paris

The Broadway box-office hit AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, filled with memorable Gershwin musical numbers and spectacular dance routines, opened this week at London’s Dominion Theatre to a cluster of five-star reviews. Directed and choreographed by Tony winner Christopher Wheeldon and inspired by the Academy Award-winning 1951 film of the same name, premiered at the Palace Theatre on Broadway in April 2015 after a brief engagement at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.

Both leads, ballet stars Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope headline the West End production. Former First Artist with the Royal Ballet, Leanne originated the role of Lise Dassin, originally played by Leslie Caron in the movie. She received a Tony Award nomination for her performance. I attempted to met Leanne in person at the stage door, but London’s fickle Spring weather sprung a leak in my plan last Saturday, so I left it at the theatre and it came back immediately.

Drawing: Tom Hollander in Travesties

Tom Hollander’s welcome return to the stage after a six-year absence has resulted in a Best Actor Olivier Award nomination for his ‘career-best’ performance in Tom Stoppard’s golden oldie TRAVESTIES. The Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival, directed by Patrick Marber, sold out before opening night late last year and transferred to the West End’s Apollo Theatre.  Tom plays the central Henry Carr, who  was a British consular official in Zurich during the first World War and encountered  Russian communist revolutionary Lenin, the founder of Dada, Tristan Tzara and Irish author James Joyce, all of whom were in the city at the time. As a member of a group of actors called The English Players, managed by Joyce, he was cast in the leading role of Algernon in Oscar Wide’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.

In his five-star review, The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish said “Tom Hollander is hilarious in this mind-bogglingly entertaining Stoppard revival”. He went on to write, “Tom Stoppard’s award-winning 1974 comedy finds the man, who memorably described himself as a ‘bounced Czech’ performing such hire-wire feats of linguistic daring that even undertakes an entire scene in the limerick form. And that’s not the half of it: there are exchanges in Russian, outbreaks of nonsense, a super-abundance of allusion, word-play, parodies and to crown it all, a running pastiche of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.” Tom signed my sketch of him as Henry at the Apollo’s stage door last weekend.

Drawing: Ian Bartholomew as Chitterlow in Half A Sixpence

The Noel Coward Theatre is Ian Bartholomew’s second home. Three shows in three years at the West End venue and two Olivier nominations. The front of house staff even gave him a plaque to mark the occasion. In 2014/15 he appeared in the stage version of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE as Sir Edmund Tylney, the man responsible for drama censorship in Elizabethan England.

Then he played the feisty impresario Vivian Van Damm in MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS last year and he is currently playing the eccentric playwright Critterlow in HALF A SIXPENCE, both roles he ‘got the nod’ for an Olivier nom. He signed my Critterlow sketch between shows on Saturday.

Drawing: Jenny Agutter in Equus

Jenny Agutter won a BAFTA Award for her performance as Jill Mason in Sidney Lumet’s 1977 production of Peter Shaffer’s psychological drama EQUUS, one of my favourite, if not my favourite play. In the 2007 London stage revival of the play featuring Richard Griffiths and Daniel Radcliffe at the Gielgud Theatre she portrayed magistrate Hesther Solomon. A couple of weeks ago I did this sketch of Jenny in both roles and sent it to her. She signed and sent it back with this dedication.

Drawing: Donna McKechnie

American musical theatre dancer, singer, actress and choreographer Donna McKechnie
Has been very much part of the fabric of Broadway for more than half a century since making her debut in the 1961 production of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING. Fifteen years later she won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for originating the role of Cassie, the former chorus girl making a comeback in A CHORUS LINE. In 1980 she was diagnosed with crippling arthritis and told she would never dance again, but defied those odds to return to THE CHORUS LINE six years later and appeared in the West End revival of CAN CAN. She has returned to the London stage to feature in the musical THE WILD PARTY at The Other Palace (formerly the St James) where she signed my sketch.

Drawing: John Owen-Jones as The Phantom

The longest  running London Phantom is Welsh musical theatre actor and singer John Owen-Jones since Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical sensation THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA first opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in September 1986. He played 1400 performances in his three-and-a-half years in the role, from 2001-2005 and agreed to continue for a limited period from September 2015 until the end of January 2016.
John is currently appearing in the UK Premiere of the musical THE WILD PARTY. At Lord Webber’s The Other Palace where he signed this Phantom drawing for me.

Drawing: Daniel Radcliffe as Cripple Billy

When Daniel Radcliffe played Billy Craven, the lead in Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy THE CRIPPLE OF INNISHMAAN at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2013, I drew a number of sketches of him and the rest of the cast, which they all kindly signed for me. Daniel’s character, the orphan and outcast ‘Cripple Billy’, eager to escape the gossip, poverty and boredom if Innishmann, tries for a part in a Hollywood film in the neighbouring Inishmore and to everyone’s surprise, gets his chance.

Daniel signed the original of this drawing, but I wanted to add one of his best lies of dialogue, so on a copy of the sketch I added the text.  He has returned to the London stage to star in the 50th anniversary of Tom Stoppard’s ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD at the Old Vic and was signing in the foyer after Saturday’s evening performance, which was a perfect opportunity to get it graphed and dedicated.

Drawing: The Miser at the Garrick Theatre

the-miser

Moliere’s classic comedy THE MISER has received a liberal adaption by director Sean Foley and co-adaptee Phil Porter in a major revival which started at the Garrick Theatre last week after short runs at the Bath Theatre Royal and Richmond. Griff Rhys Jones plays the Harpagon, the paranoid lead, fanatical about protecting his abundant wealth. He is ably supported by a  splendid comedic cast that includes Lee Mack, Mathew Horne, Ryan Gage and Kathy Wix, who all signed this sketch for me on arrival for the matinee on Saturday.