A Day in the Life of Kenneth Branagh
London Times, October 7 1988
by Kenneth Branagh
I wake completely wrecked. Sometimes
I wonder if I'll manage to get up at all. It's entirely my own
fault because I get to bed so late. My mother says that when
I was five she could never get me to bed, and never get me up,
and I've stayed much the same really. This means that when I'm
rehearsing I'll stagger out of bed as near to rehearsal call
as possible and there'll seldom be time for more than a cup of
tea. But mornings vary.
There's such a lot of administration
connected with Renaissance that sometimes I find myself having
breakfast meetings. This makes me laugh--it sounds so kind of,
well, high-powered--but often it's the only time to get to see
busy people. Filming is different again. You've got to
be up early. When I was making the Fortunes of War the make-up
call was 6:30am. The good thing about being on location is that
you get extremely well fed. I'd always have something highly
calorific for breakfast like bacon and eggs or a hamburger. I'm
a real junk food eater.
It was during the making of Fortunes
of War that I planned the whole Renaissance thing. David Parfitt
and I run the company together. We met when we were in the West
End production of Another Country, which was the first thing
I did after leaving RADA in 1981. The idea behind Renaissance
is quite simple: that Shakespeare should be accessible to everyone.
I can't stand the sort of Shakespeare where it's assumed you've
seen the play at least ten times already.
When we're on tour, the only
morning I can guarantee waking up at home in London is Sunday.
You never see actors move as fast as they do out of a theatre
on Saturday night. It's like Brand's Hatch. My car is a battered
Volkswagen Passat, which is a kind of running gag because I throw
everything on the passenger seat floor--old Lucozade bottles,
banana skins, the lot. But at least there aren't cigarette ends
all over the place.
I really enjoy Sundays. I usually
ring my mum and dad and find out how my brother Bill and sister
Joyce are doing--she took her A levels this summer and will,
hopefully, go to university. I have lunch or supper with friends--sometimes
both. John Sessions is a great mate. I directed his one-man show
Life of Napoleon last year and we often spend Sundays swopping
neurosis stories. Or if I'm on my own I'll maybe read, though
nowadays reading is almost always connected with work. But I
did get around to Christopher Nolan's Under the Eye of the Clock,
and it was fantastic, very inspiring. Another thing I enjoy is
messing about with old Beatles songs on my guitar. I listen to
the radio a lot too. Shakespeare's all very well, but it's easy
to insulate yourself. At least pop music gives you some idea
of what other people are doing.
I'm crazy about football and
always turn to the sports pages. I used to play all the time
when I was a kid. I had this idea that if I was a success as
an actor I might be asked to be part of a charity team. Nobody
ever asked me. Perhaps they think that because I do Shakespeare
I wouldn't be interested in anything as common as football.
Being on tour is extremely hard
work, so it's important to look after yourself. Renaissance is
a very caring company in this respect. The other day, Jimmy Yuill,
another actor, turned up with a box of Vitamin C tablets for
me. He's a wonderful Scotsman and a close friend; I'm godfather
to his son. It's great having an interest in a wee boy called
I don't always manage lunch,
especially if there's a matinee. There might also be a meeting
to attend or someone waiting to interview me. I'm always getting
asked about my private life, but I never talk about that because
it doesn't involve just me. It's such a dodgy area, once you
open that particular door. As far as I'm concerned the nation
can think I'm gay.
I make a point whenever I have
a spare half-hour of sticking a pillow under my head and just
lying down. When I was with the RSC in Stratford I worked with
Sebastian Shaw, who's over 80, and he gave me some good advice:
when you're working hard, he said, don't stand when you can sit
and don't sit when you can lie down. So if I get wound up, I
take a few deep breaths and think how lucky I am to be blessed
with a really good constitution.
Although London is now my home,
I cannot deny the influence of my Belfast background. You cannot
just write off the place where you were born. When I go back
to visit the relations, you recognize the Irish in you, the things
that make you different.
By teatime I'm hungry, especially
if I missed out on lunch. So I'll have a poached egg on a slice
of bread or egg and chips. When I had the afternoon off recently,
I sat down and caught up with all my mail. I felt so good, so
bloody virtuous. There's this terrible puritan streak in me that
cannot allow me to relax if there's work to be done.
As I'm so busy, the furnishing
of my flat has had to take a back seat. Until recently, it was
used as the Renaissance offices and was always full of people.
Then, out of the blue, I was asked by Carmen Callil of Chatto
and Windus to write a book. It's to be about the development
of Renaissance, how David and I work things out and how people
like Derek Jacobi and Judi Dench came to be involved. The reason
I'm doing it is because the advance has actually paid for the
I love being part of this company,
not just to be boss, but because I work with people who are talented
and also very nice. I like to think of myself as the catalyst
who brings them together. Because, believe me, this is a team
The best part of the day is undoubtedly
after the show. We'll all go to the pub and have a pint of bitter.
There will be a great giggle about what's gone wrong. The other
night, for instance, I walked on stage and dried completely on
the first line. Another time I was playing this comic part and
there was absolute silence, not a titter. The same thing happened
to Richard Briers during our production of Twelfth Night. I bumped
into him during the interval after a completely deadpan house.
"I bloody 'ate acting," he said.
Come half past eleven, we go
and have something to eat. No doubt about it, I have far too
many late night Indians and Chinese. But who cares if you don't
get to bed till two or half past? I'd love eight good hours,
but if I can have six, and have fun, give me six. And
I think of the times no one laughed and remind myself what a
bloody ridiculous way this is to earn a living....
Back to Articles Listing
Back to the Compendium