WEST END AWAITS BRANAGH'S RETURN
The Gaurdian, 20 February 2003
After 10 years in Hollywood and one season at a part-time snooker venue in Sheffield, the actor Kenneth Branagh is finally returning to the London stage.
Branagh, 42, will make his debut at the National Theatre in the savagely dark 'Edmond', by the US playwright David mamet. he will take the title role of a middle-class businessman who leaves a stale marriage to float morally adrift into a vortex of madness, racism, lust and murder. The production will be directed by Edward Hall, who is the son of Sir Peter Hall and is currently staging 'Macbeth' in the West End.
Edmond, which opens in July, is part of the National Theatre's summer season of cut-price productions led by its new artistic director, Nicholas Hytner, who takes over in April. Two-thirds of the tickets will cost £10, the rest £25.
When Branagh chose the Sheffield Crucible for his long-awaited return to the British boards as Richard III last year, he was said to have been attracted by the prospect of a younger audience. The crowd at the National's Olivier theatre promises the same dynamic. Branagh has not been seen on the London stage since playing 'Hamlet' with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1992.
Hytner described him as a "stage animal" who would inject some passion into the National in a role that "punched audiences in the face".
He said: "Ken is one of the relatively small number of actors - peopl like Alex Jennings, Simon Russell Beale, Zoe Wanamaker and Adrian Lester - who can really play these large spaces. He has a kind of energy, intellgience and charisma which has been missing at the National for too long."
Belfast-born Branagh made his West End debut in 1982 in 'Another Country', just six weeks after leaving drama school. He went on to wow audiences at the RSC, then formed the Renaissance Theatre Company. He ventured into film in 1988 with 'Henry V', before heading to Hollywood to direct and star in the thriller 'Dead Again.'
After directing and starring in various films over the next few years he returned to the West End in 2001 to direct 'The Play What I Wrote'.