BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Branagh, Dench and a Very Lucky Young Star

Daily Mail, 4 June 2015
By Baz Bamigboye
* Thanks, Jane

Jessie Buckley says she has been ‘bitten by the Bard’ — and she’s got the bug, bad.

The 25-year-old actress has been chosen by Kenneth Branagh to play the ingénue Perdita in Shakespeare’s 'The Winter’s Tale', one of this autumn’s big theatrical events.

Perdita’s a foundling, raised by a kindly shepherd, and she’s unaware of the turmoil involving her real parents: Leontes the king (Branagh) and his estranged and ill-used queen Hermione, played by Miranda Raison.

If it wasn’t for the quick-witted Paulina, portrayed by Judi Dench, Perdita would not be alive at all.

Ms Buckley, who studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Branagh’s alma mater), noted that Perdita ‘injects a bit of hope into a world that has been bleak and wintery’. Perdita, she added, is a ray of sunshine who brings a sense of ‘forgiveness, hope, love and redemption’.

The play explores the whole spectrum of love. ‘At the beginning, the love is steeped in jealousy and the bad side of what it can make you feel.’ But when the story shifts to Bohemia, things change.

‘He’s good, old William Shakespeare, isn’t he?!’ she joked. Buckley said she was thrilled at the prospect of working with people like Branagh and Dench — ‘in Shakespeare!’

‘You’ll find me in the wings with my notebook!’ she quipped.

Other major roles in the show will be taken by Michael Pennington, John Shrapnel, Hadley Fraser, Zoe Rainey and Kathryn Wilder and Jack Colgrave Hurst.

Perdita’s love, Florizel, will be played by the dashing Tom Bateman: a star in the making and the perfect Shakespearean hero.

He portrayed the Bard himself in the stage adaptation of 'Shakespeare In Love', and cut his teeth with gusto in 'Much Ado About Nothing', when Josie Rourke directed it in the West End with David Tennant.

Both lovers have been busy recently. Buckley, who was Jude Law’s beloved in Michael Grandage’s production of 'Henry V', has been playing Masha in a television production of 'War And Peace' these past six months for BBC TV and the Weinstein company.

Bateman, meanwhile, has been starring in ITV’s re-imagining of 'Jekyll And Hyde'. He plays Mr Jekyll’s grandson in a Thirties setting.

'The Winter’s Tale', co-directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford, kicks off the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s season at the Garrick Theatre on October 17.

Most of the company (though not Judi Dench) will also perform in Terence Rattigan’s post-war 'Harlequinade', which plays in repertory at the Garrick from October 24.

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