Sir Kenneth Branagh Talks Olivier, “The Entertainer”, and What Moves Him Most
Sir Kenneth Branagh (Gilderoy Lockhart) is a distinguished actor, known not only for his screen performances but his stage performances as well. His production company, the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, has been extremely busy as of late, residing at the Garrick Theatre in London, showcasing a number of plays.
In a recent interview with the Telegraph, Branagh discusses a number of different topics, starting with what emotionally moves him. He answers,
Two nights ago, I was watching Long Lost Family with Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall – that kind of thing I find very moving. I have a little Jack Russell dog who I just adore; he makes me cry because he’s just so there and loves life. And I love the month of May. I love it when that light hits this country and you see all that growth, all that possibility. I get that Seasonal Disorder thing, where I get very sad come mid-October when the nights draw in, and I want to use every moment of the light that one can. So the arrival of May. That moves me a great deal…
Today marks the opening day of Branagh’s adaptation of The Entertainer, the last in the season of plays showing at the Garrick. Branagh himself will be starring in said play, taking on the role of Archie Rice, a once-highly rated music-hall performer.
The Entertainer is set in 1956, against the background of the Suez crisis, when Britain invaded Egypt to regain control of the Suez Canal and depose Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser but was forced into a humiliating withdrawal after demands from America and the USSR. Like Britain, Archie Rice is in decline; once-popular, now reduced to appearing twice-nightly in a shabby nude revue.
Back last month, we reported that Sir John Hurt (Garrick Ollivander), who was also listed to star in the play (as Billy Rice), had to pull out due to medical advice. The role will now be portrayed by actor Gawn Grainger.
The play was originally written by John Osborne, whom Branagh had the pleasure of knowing back when he worked on another of his plays – Look Back in Anger – back in 1989. About The Entertainer, Branagh commented,
You could see it as a lament for England, a minor key, dying-fall piece of music that was regretful and backward-looking. But the thing to remember is that Osborne was 26 when he wrote it, and at its centre is this passionate, vituperative exploration.
Archie Rice was first played on stage by another of Britain’s well-known and distinguished actors, Sir Laurence Olivier, an actor whom Branagh has been compared to throughout the years and whom he also portrayed in the film My Week with Marilyn. Commenting on Olivier and the comparison between them both, Branagh said,
I think it’s very hard for us to understand what a dominant figure Olivier was in the second half of the 20th century, by way of defining what an actor was, because he was a great movie star, he was a great-looking fella, he was in a glamorous marriage… marriages. He was somebody against whom all others were judged, including me.
The actor-manager thing, I suppose, is where I’m a little closer to the kinds of things Olivier did than others might be. But frankly, in any kind of comparison, I’ll be the first to say, hats off to Sir Laurence, you win.
The Entertainer is running from now until November 12 at the Garrick Theatre. A performance of the play can also be caught at UK theaters on October 27, where it will be broadcast live.
Have you got tickets to see The Entertainer? Have you managed to catch any of the other Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company plays this season? Let us know with your comments.