Scottish actor Jack Lowden won the Olivier Award for his harrowing portrayal of an ailing and anguished artist in Richard Eyre’s London revival of Ibsen’s GHOSTS. Initially staged at the Almeida in the Autumn of 2013, the production transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in the West End, concluding in March 2014. Jack played Oswald Alving opposite Lesley Manville (who also won the Olivier) as Helen,his widowed mother. He has inherited syphilis from his lecherous late father and as his heath deteriorates, returns home from living as a painter in Paris, where falls for the maid Regina, who turns out to be his philandering father’s illegitimate daughter.
The subject matter of religion, general disease, incest and euthanasia, “caused an explosion of outrage and critical venom,” said the director, when it was first staged in 1882 in the US. In his five-star review for the Telegraph, Charles Spencer wrote, “Jack Lowden, big, shambolic and increasingly distraught as her bohemian artist son conveys the ugly, egotism of the chronically sick and the sheer terror of his terrible illness. The plays closing moments are almost too upsetting to watch.”
Jack is currently back on the London stage after enjoying his first major international onscreen success in the 2016 BBC miniseries WAR AND PEACE. He stars opposite Hayley Atwell in Shakespeare’s MEASURE FOR MEASURE at the Donmar Warehouse, Josie Rourke’s final production as artistic director for the intimate Covent Garden venue. In a unique gender-reversal, Jack and Hayley alternate the roles of Angelo and Isabella during the play. Jack signed my sketch when he arrived for last Saturday’s matinee.
Scottish actress Neve McIntosh made her West End debut this summer in Tracy Letts American southern gothic comedy KILLER JOE at the Trafalgar Studios. She played Sharla, the stepmother in the ‘fiercely disturbing’ play, set in a Texas trailer park about the dysfunctional Smith family who hire a detective and hit-man Joe Cooper to kill the mother and claim the insurance.
In her WhatsOnStage review, Sarah Crompton wrote they Neve “adds insight and sass to her scenes as Sharla the stepmother, determined to survive and make as much of life as she can.” Neve herself described the play as “dark, funny, shocking and very human.”
She’s a familiar face on the small screen, appearing in a number of popular British shows, including a recurring role as Madame Vastra in DOCTOR WHO and architect Kay Gillies in BBC1’s miniseries THE REPLACEMENT.
She signed my Shayla sketch at the beginning of the run in June and the portrait during the final week at the stage door in August.
One of the rising stars of British theatre is Welsh-born RADA graduate Rachel Redford, who is currently one of the 18 characters, a blend of refugees and British volunteers in Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s THE JUNGLE at London’s Playhouse theatre. She was part of the original Young Vic cast that transferred to the West End back in June in the wake of five- star reviews.
THE JUNGLE, defined as a ‘vital drama’ by The Guardian, focuses on the hopeful, resilient residents of the Calais refugee camp in 2015. Rachel plays Beth, a young teacher, described as a ‘passionate bundle of outrage.’
In her Evening Standard review Fiona Mountford summed up the British volunteers involvement, as a “true Empire hangover… they want to improve order on this sea of human desperation but are hopelessly out of their depth.”
Rachel signed my sketch for me after a Saturday matinee performance a few weeks ago.
Jo McInnes divides her time between acting and directing. She is currently appearing in the hugely acclaimed THE JUNGLE at the Playhouse theatre in London’s West End. Jo was a member of the original cast when the play premiered last year, with previews from 16 June (World Refugee Day) and transferred with the production across the river to its present venue. It is scheduled to cross a wider stretch of water and set up in New York later this year.
Set in Europe’s largest unofficial refugee camp, the Calais Jungle on the northern French coast, which became the home for more than 10,000 people in 2015, it immerses audiences in all the complexities and contradictions of a refugee camp.
In his Variety review, Matt Bateman wrote, “THE JUNGLE does everything theatre does best, and more.” Jo plays the pragmatic and jaded volunteer Paula, a ‘free swearing child protector… a caring, no-nonsense matriarch’
She signed my sketch of her in the role at the stage door last month.
One of Britain’s leading stage actors, Dominic Rowan has added the critically acclaimed THE JUNGLE to his already extensive list of credits, which is matched by his TV work, including his role as CPS prosecutor Jacob Thorne in the ITV crime drama LAW AND ORDER: UK.
He joined the cast of THE JUNGLE, the immersive play about the now-bulldozed migrant camp in Calais, after its sell-out run at Young Vic over the winter, when the production transferred to The Playhouse Theatre in June. Dominic plays Derek, an idealistic, somewhat self-important seasoned charity worker. He will stay with the show after it completes its West End run next month and shifts camp stateside to New York.
Dominic has kindly signed a number of my sketches at various stage doors over the years. He did this ‘Derek’ drawing for me a few weeks ago as he arrived for a Saturday matinee.
The hugely popular 2015 Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1951 classic musical THE KING AND I transferred to to the London Palladium for the summer with both its leads making their West End debuts. Ken Watanabe and Kelli O’Hara reprised their roles as the King of Siam and English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens in this unconventional and tempestuous relationship, set in Bangkok in the 1860’s.
Bartlett Sher’s lavish Lincoln Centre Theatre production was nominated for 9 Tony Awards, winning four, including the Best Actress award for Kelli and a nom for Ken. Due to demand, the London season was extended by an extra three weeks, finishing last Saturday.
In her WhatsOnStage review, Daisy Bowie-Sell wrote, “Overall the two make a superb double act… Kelli O’Hara is made for the part, her acting skills and delicate rich voice come together to imbue Anna with an engaging compassion and humanity… Ken is brilliantly funny, sharp and betrays moments of convincing vulnerability.”
I left this sketch at the stage door and it came back signed by both.
Claire Price joined the cast of Jonathan Munby’s KING LEAR, for its limited West End transfer to the Duke of York’s, after the productions critically acclaimed sell-out run at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre.
Claire plays the ruthless, uptight older sister Goneril… described by one reviewer as a ‘Sloaney, (for those not familiar with the term, it’s a portmanteau of Sloane Square in London’s Chelsea, famed for the wealth and affluent lifestyle of its residents) pearls-and-headscarf Goneril’.
Claire is no stranger to Shakespeare. Previous roles include Beatrice in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Miranda in THE TEMPEST and Rosalind in AS YOU LIKE IT. She’s also well known to UK TV viewers as DS Siobhan Clarke in REBUS and many guest appearances on popular shows such as AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT and MIDSOMER MURDERS.
Thankfully Claire is the complete opposite to her LEAR stage persona and signed my sketch at the stage door, heading in for last Saturday’s matinee, one of the 100 performances scheduled to finish in early November.
Award-winning London-based Irish actress Elaine Cassidy has spent most of her stage time over the past four years at the Donmar Warehouse and the majority of that under the direction of Lyndsay Turner in Brian Friel plays. In 2014 she appeared in the late, great Irish dramatist’s – often referred to as the Irish Ckekov – adaptation of Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev’s best known work, FATHER AND SONS and returned this year in his haunting 1979 piece ARISTOCRATS, a play about a generation whose past threatens to obliterate its future, which finished its two month run last weekend.
It’s the first major revival of this minor modern classic since Brian’s death three years ago. In between the two productions, Elaine stepped in at the 11th hour to replace Michelle Dockery in LES LIASIONS DANGEREUSES. Central to the ARISTOCRATS are the damaged O’Donnell sibblings, who gather at their crumbling family home, Ballybeg Hall in Donegal for the marriage of sister Claire. It’s a far cry from the former glory days. Elaine played Alice, an alcoholic, described by Paul Taylor in his Independent review as ‘elegantly sozzled’ with ‘brutal fits of self- awareness.’
She signed my sketch at the Donmar during the final week of the production.
“It’s not about refugees, it’s about humans,” said Syrian actor Ammar Haj Ahmad in a recent interview about the theatrical phenomenon, THE JUNGLE in which he stars and leads a multinational, multiethnic cast, vividly recreating the life in the sprawling makeshift camp called ‘the jungle’ in Calais on France’s northern coast, where thousands gathered from all corners of the world to escape war and terror, hoping to cross the English Channel and build a new life.
Ammar plays Safi, the main spokesperson for the Jungle’s inhabitants, who also functions in the play as the guide and chronicler. In 2011, Ammar was a cast member in a production of the Arabian classic ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS, which completed its global tour in Edinburgh. His visa ran out, but the crisis back in this homeland had escalated to the point where he felt he could not return. He contacted the British Home Office to apply for asylum and the 36 year-old has not returned to Syria since.
The Broadway-bound National Theatre and Young Vic co-production with the playwrighters Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s Good Chance Theatre premiered at the Young Vic last November. Directed by Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin, it transferred across the river to the Embankment’s Playhouse Theatre earlier this year where it resides until 3 November before crossing a bigger stretch of water to New York.
The sell-out production received a powerful reaction. Audiences and critics were blown away. The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish has called it “the most important play in the West End.” The immersive nature of the play, which transports everyone into the jungle itself is “an experience we do together- actors and audience,” said Ammar. “I am truly grateful to be part of theatre that makes a difference.”
I met Ammar at the stage door after a Saturday matinee a few weeks ago where he signed my sketch.
Danny Webb’s extensive stage career includes moments of blindness, two grisly moments in fact, both critically acclaimed. The latest can be seen in Jonathan Munby’s ‘dazzling’ production of Shakespeare’s KING LEAR at the Duke of York’s Theatre.
Playing the Earl of Gloucester in the Chichester Festival Theatre’s West End transfer, opposite Sir Ian McKellen’s tragic monarch, Danny is tied to a chair while his eyes are gouged out, cited by one critic as channeling Quentin Tarantino’s RESERVOIR DOGS. The blinding of Gloucester scene is considered by many who consider these things as structurally and conceptually the play’s centre piece.
Eight years ago Danny won the Off West End Best Actor Award for his portrayal of Ian, a seedy, hard-drinking journo in the revival of Sarah Kane’s provocative BLASTED at the Lyric Hammersmith. Set in a luxury hotel room in Leeds, Ian and his much younger girlfriend Cate’s tryst intentions are dramatically interrupted by a soldier with a sniper’s rifle and an explosion that reduces everything to a shattered ruin. Cate escapes, but Ian is anally raped and his eyes sucked out by the menacing military man.
He signed my Shakespeare sketch a few weeks back after a matinee performance at the Duke of York’s before he returned to have his eyes ripped out that evening.