News Archive: July 2003 - December 2003

Happy Recuperation from whatever you celebrate, and the best of the festive season as the year winds down, and the seasonal goodies push the scale up! Here's news that will perk up even the overfed and drowsy: Kenneth has sent a thank-you for the 2003 birthday gift sent by the Ken-Friends. You can read about the project and his thank-you here.

Bits and pieces...

From Music from the Movies:

Elmer Bernstein scores new documentary
Elmer Bernstein, still going strong at the age of 81, has written the original score for American Epic: The Story Of Cecil B. DeMille, a new two-hour television documentary about the Hollywood mogul. Bernstein, who wrote one of his first film scores for DeMille's The Ten Commandments in 1955, conducted the score in Prague. The documentary is directed by Kevin Brownlow and features narration by Kenneth Branagh.
Apparently there will be an appearance by KB on Dead Ringers, a BBC comedy show during the holiday season. The occasion is a skit riffing on the South Park 'Kill Kenny' sketch... or so the rumour says. The show on 22 December did not deliver, but you can tune in on BBC2 on 2 January at 10 pm, and hope. :-) It sounds like it would be a hoot.

And in the meantime... you can hear Kenneth reading The Last Englishman: the Life of JL Carr (the author of A Month in the Country). You can listen to the reading live on BBC Radio 4 FM starting Monday 29 December from 09:45 - 10:00 am (repeated at 12:30 - 12:45 am) or you can go the website after-the-fact and catch the rerun. I have to say that I think the BBC and its website is fab, fab, fab.

From the Sunday Express Magazine, 21 December:

Most Wanted
With their rich chocolate colour and sleek leather ties, these crackers from Babette Kulik are a far cry from their mass-produced counterparts. But it's only by pulling that you'll realise quite how jaw-droppingly extravagant they are. Lalique perfume and silver pieces by Cartier are among the gems - along with a J Maskrey crystal skin tattoo and jokes donated by the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Faye Ripley and Ronan Keating. At £450 a box, they're not cheap, but all the proceeds go to REACT, the children's charity that imrpoves the quality of life of terminally-ill kids living at home. To order, call 020 7823 2387.
If you've been lucky enough to be in a grass hut on a fabulous beach for the holidays (but not on Mustique, Barbados, Bahams or the like :-) ), you have probably have not seen or heard the hundreds of variations on this story, so here are excerpts from the original article in the Sunday Times (21 December) about people who have declined to accept honours (as in MBE, OBE, CBR, knighthoods, lordships, etc.). Apparently this is a 'big leak' and the journalists are all over it like a cheap rug (as my kid would say). Which leads to yuk-yuk headlines like British Celebs: No Sir and Just Don't Call Them 'Sir'.   :-)
... "Others to have snubbed the system under Major include Humphrey Lyttelton (offered a knighthood in 1995); Neil MacGregor, then director of the National Gallery and now director of the British Museum (offered a knighthood in 1995); and Kenneth Branagh (a CBE in 1994)."

[And further on under the heading "They'd really rather not"]

"Kenneth Branagh, actor and director. Rejected CBE in 1994.
After Meadway comprehensive in Reading, Berkshire, Branagh found his forte at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His precocious success on the stage led him into films, including roles in A Month in the Country, Henry V and Hamlet. He directed, too, and had some Hollywood success with Dead Again in 1991. By the mid-1990s he was riding high and a natural for an honour - but turned down a CBE. Is he waiting for something superior? Last week he declined to make any comment."

So KB would have been 34 when the award was offered... a mere teenager in honours terms. No wonder he was hesitant - apart from the potential hubris/evil eye aspect (refraining from naming one-shot wonders on former honours lists) he must have suspected he would be contributing so much more.

Three photos to round things off: Kenneth and Colin from the time of A Month in the Country, a photo of Gilderoy on set, and a thumbnail of Kenneth at the Ivy (well, obviously arriving at or leaving the Ivy) on 3 December. The photo is from Rex Features, whose copyright I have always respected, pointing to the image rather than capturing it... however, they now no longer offer any large images to normal mortals (I guess not everyone just pointed) so I figure it's carte blanche. Get out your magnifying glass.   :-)

I have BIG intentions to get the photo galleries updated during the holidays (though I will have to start shunning my friends instead of inviting them to dinner if this is actually going to happen!). Stay tuned.
(27 December, thanks Beck, Robyn, Berni, Jude, Catherine, Nadine, Nancy)

I thought that credit for some "landscape and garden creations" firm (huge paraphrase) might be a bit of a giveaway... and indeedy, the location of the fabuloso retreat in Listening has been revealed. The bad news is you won't be able to go there (well, not unless you're invited), but you can get the scoop here.

The Crucible Theatre, which you will remember as the venue for the amazing "return of Kenneth Branagh to the stage" in Richard III is planning to make improvements. To this end a fundraising campaign is underway and any donation would be much appreciated. Interesting news is that American supporters are eligible for a tax deduction if they donate. Read all about it here.

Photo finish: a set of curtain call photos from the first performance, and the last, of Edmond, curtesy of the fabulous (and not yet busted, heh heh) Bertilla.
(8 December, thanks Catherine, Jude, Bertilla)

Two quickies: you can vote for Kenneth Branagh as Best Actor in the 2004 Theatregoers' Choice Awards at here. Voting continues through December and January - but you can only vote once. However, all your friends and relatives can vote... (eyebrow waggle).

The elusive Lindsay (KB's missus, in case you have been sleeping through the News these last six months or so) is pictured on the BBC website for the fabulous (not that I've had the luck to see it quite yet) Charles II: the Power and the Passion series. You can spy her here. As I am ever trying to link my adored Rufus with Himself this is pretty thrilling stuff. I wonder if they had a beer... if not they both missed a great evening (well, I know KB did; not had the chance to actually say with authority that Roof did :-) ).
(1 December, thanks Sarah)

Ah well... and... oh goody, goody! So our Kenneth did not win the Evening Standard Best Actor award (it went to Michael Sheen)... ah well, it was an honour to be nominated - but, oh goody, goody, he has been nominated for the Best Actor Award in the 2004 Theatregoers' Choice Awards. Thanks to all of you who nominated Kenneth Branagh - as of tomorrow you will be able to vote for him. In the meantime you can read about the nominations and review the list. Edmond received four nominations: Best Actor (KB), Best Supporting Actress (Nicola Walker), Best Director (Edward Hall) and Best Play Revival. Well done!

A couple of our 'roving reporters' have received their Chicken Shed 30th Anniversary CD. This is a fundraiser for the Chicken Shed Theatre and includes Kenneth Branagh reading three poems. This is a blurb from the credits on the CD:

"..this is the first of three poems by Paula Rees. Although represented with her song lyrics elsewhere we wanted to include these poems as they are part and parcel of Chicken Shed's work. Kenneth Branagh is some actor bloke who's apparently quite good so we asked him to read them! He is also a generous friend and stays in touch wherever he is in the world, to encourage us in our work."
You can read about and order the CD on the Chicken Shed Theatre website:

I still have some 'after Edmond' photos which will appear on the site when I get my act together, but here are two more cover photos: gracing the international edition of Time in 1989 (what a cutie) and gracing yet another edition of Henry V.

(30 November, thanks Sal, Jude, Nadine)

Yup - do an update, expect news the day after... This time it's news that calls for ACTION. In an exaggeration of democracy (can such a thing exist?) is calling for nominations for its 2004 Theatregoers' Choice Awards. So... guess who you can nominate! Yessiree Bob - I mean Ken! And others from the cast whom you might have appreciated. And of course anyone else you might have enjoyed during the theatre season - although clearly the Compendium cannot condone nominating anyone but Kenneth Branagh for Best Actor.

And after KB is nominated you (and all your friends and relatives) can vote for him. This is not a small town in Apulia, so I won't know if you've let me down... but there is karma... Kenneth Karma - not the name of a new dessert, but of the "just dessert" for non-nominators and non-voters. So, if you want to shut me up before I go off on even more ridiculous tangents, just click here and do your bit! THANKS!

And just in case you've forgotten exactly why you want to nominate Kenneth for Edmond click here. Okay, not the deep version of why... for you highbrows who want the reviews, click here. :-)
(11 November, thanks Anita, Jude)

It is always the case that the minute I do a news update 'new' news instantly appears. This time it's the fab fact that KB has been nominated for the Best Actor Award in the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. The BBC reports thus:

Branagh Competes for Stage Award

Kenneth Branagh and Warren Mitchell are competing for a top West End prize with both nominated for the Evening Standard Theatre Awards.

Branagh's role in the National Theatre's Edmond - which saw him strip naked on stage - sees him shortlisted for best actor. Mitchell, best known as Alf Garnett, is nominated for The Price, while Michael Sheen for Caligula is also a contender.

Eileen Atkins, Ann Mitchell and Sandy McDade compete for best actress. Atkins was nominated for her performance in the National Theatre's Honour, while Mitchell is recognised for her role in Through the Leaves at the Southwark Playhouse. The final best actress nominee, McDade, has been shortlisted for prison drama Iron at the Royal Court.

The awards will be handed out at a ceremony at London's Savoy Hotel on 24 November.

Three titles have been nominated in the best play category: After Mrs Rochester at the Lyric Hammersmith, Democracy at the National Theatre and Fallout from the Royal Court.

The widely acclaimed Jerry Springer the Opera, which has just transferred from the National Theatre to the larger Cambridge Theatre, is nominated for best musical. It competes with Anything Goes at the Theatre Royal and the Young Vic production of Simply Heavenly.

The best director shortlist includes Michael Blakemore for Democracy (National Theatre), Simon McBurney for Elephant Vanishes (Barbican), and Polly Teale for After Mrs Rochester (Lyric Hammersmith).

Casualty actor and Celebrity Fame Academy contestant Kwame Kwei-Armah has been nominated for most promising playwright for his National Theatre debut Elmina's Kitchen. Owen McCafferty for Scenes From The Big Picture (National Theatre) and Lucy Prebble for The Sugar Syndrome are also named in the most promising playwright category.

You can read more of the same here at the This is London (Evening Standard) site. You may all begin sending "vote for Branagh" vibes to the voters immediately.   :-)

More soon I am sure, but a quick photo finish for now: more Edmond stage door photos.
(10 November, thanks Beck, Nadine)

Hi gang! Well, I survived Hallowe'en despite the two day presence (too many parties when it falls on a Friday, darling) of an astronomically tall (will snakeskin platform boots never become passé?) member of Kiss (can't remember who, but not the one whose tongue we've seen far too much of) at my home. Speaking of the high life (in any form) the news snippets lately have included a mention in Paul Burrell's book of "Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh for lunch" at Highgrove (invited, not served)(well, I assume, anyway...  :-) ) and a mention of Kenenth Branagh in an article at on the last flight of the Concorde. An undoubtedly lovely Miss Joanne Lewsly, air hostess on board, is quoted: "One of the first famous people I met on board was Kenneth Branagh, and he was lovely - you could chat to him as if he was just anybody."

The Chicken Shed Theatre fundraising album was mentioned a while ago, here is a more information:

A host of today's biggest stars have recorded an album to support The Chicken Shed Theatre Company and help celebrate the company's 30th anniversary. The Chicken Shed Album features exclusive performances from the hottest names in the music industry including Emma Bunton, Gabrielle, Sir Cliff Richard and Elaine Page. Actors Kenneth Branagh, Bob Hoskins and Richard O'Brien are also lending their support.

The Chicken Shed Album features songs written by Chicken Shed over the last 30 years. Released on 24th November - order through your local record shop (catalogue number RRUK3) or through

Track listing:
Sir CLIFF RICHARD – Watch Me Come Alive
GABRIELLE – As Far As the Eye Can See
EMMA BUNTON – Sometimes
SAM BROWN – Can I Love Him?
BOB HOSKINS – Bits and Pieces
CHICKEN SHED – Trail My Soul
RICHARD O' BRIEN – Looking for Love
BARBARA DICKSON – Will It Happen To Me?
CHICKEN SHED – I am in Love with the World
KENNETH BRANAGH – Mad Little Sad Boy
MISTY OLDLAND – Still Waters
ELAINE PAIGE – We Need Each Other

The Chicken Shed Theatre website is

I have promised more stage door photos from Edmond and they will come - today, however, we round up a new set of covers for the Coverboy Corral (aka Cover Gallery).

Books: Hamlet (an odd one, since it was supposedly published in 1994, according to the British Library, but has our blond film hero on the cover... the publisher must be clairvoyant :-)); Pierre Berthomieu's Kenneth Branagh; Shakespeare Into Film; Shakespeare at the Cineplex and Engendering a Nation.

Magazines: earning Applause in 1997; more Shackleton covers, one, two, three; one you've already seen (News, 7 July): in a puffy shirt, and Edmond covers from Plays International and Theatre Record.

Phew - that must be enough to paper the den!  :-)
(2 November, thanks Beck, Gracelandgatesuk, Nadine, Catherine, Jude)

Woo hoo! The Halloween special over at Atom Films is Schneider's 2nd StageClick here to watch the film and read the enthusiatic reviews. A reminder that you can also watch The Periwig-Maker at Atom Films.

I've added a site search link (it's the Google thingy on the main page). One of these days I'll get round to "customising" the results look. For big results type in 'hamlet', ha ha. Colourful words also work well, ho ho, ha ha.

And, as promised, more after-Edmond stage door photos. And there will be yet more... :-)
(23 October, thanks Douglass, Isabel)

Hi gang, a bit of news and some stage door photos below. I've gathered together the Listening information here.

Bits and pieces:

The region 2 (UK and Europe) DVD of Conspiracy has been released, as has that of The Gathering Storm.

Click here to see photos of Kenneth Branagh taken during an event at the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) offices last April - he is the organisation's Honorary President.

A comment on Edmond from the Naxos web site:

"Kenneth Branagh’s virtuoso performance of Edmond, the David Mamet play in a new fast-moving production at the Royal National Theatre is filling the house night after night. It is a tale of small events knocking a small man off the precarious social platform that is our daily existence, down a slope into the cavernous regions of fantasy, desire and collapse. A moral for all time, certainly – but a totally convincing descent in the hands of Branagh who proves himself, once again, both a star and an actor. And there are not many of those around."
Don't you love the ones that get it? Still with Edmond, these quotes below are from an autumn Member's publication from the National Theatre, regarding Edward Hall's direction of the play:
"He's full of admiration for how boldly and speedily Kenneth Branagh worked during the three and a half weeks they spent in rehearsal.

'We talked a fair amount beforehand, but neither of us wanted to impose a complex character on the text. Once we started rehearsing he worked very fast, he just went for it. He wasn't afraid to explore the extremes, he was pushing the material to the very edge. I found him a fantastic actor to work with, and I think he illuminated the play in a very exciting way.'"

You will find an account of the presentation of Listening and the Q&A session at the Watershed Theatre here. Warning: spoilers!

Chubby bunny?!   So, Evening Gazette (that's what it says: "By Evening Gazette") wrote an article about Kenneth in the Diet & Fitness section of (no accompanying photo in lycra gym togs, alas or thank goodness, depending on your point of view). I think Evening Gazette is either a pseudonym for our Ngoc (hi Nockie!) or s/he dug around in the Compendium, because a memorable line from this article is: "He tends to work out strenuously in gyms only before he is due to make a movie, which is why his weight can range from scrawny-as-a-stick to chubby bunny." We know that chubby bunny was coined by Ngoc but has not migrated beyond this site (well, there was a rabbit on the first fundraising t-shirt but Kenneth didn't ask (phew) and we didn't tell), so I wonder how Evening Gazette came up with it!   Actually, the single sentence format smacks of being lifted from all over the place... with the usual dubious statements about "dating".   :-)

Kenneth Branagh has donated 2 signed, Gilderoy Lockhart photos to the Blind Centre for Northern Ireland (BCNI) to be auctioned, separately, at their 25th anniversay ball in Belfast City Hall on Friday, November 7, 2003. It is possible to participate in the auction without attending. You can find details here:

And an article from the Yorkshire Post, 13 October, with quotes from KB at the end:

Theatre's Hopes For £15m Expansion

An ambitious bid to upgrade a venue dubbed "The National Theatre of the North" is looking across the Atlantic to help smash its £15m target.

Sheffield's hugely successful Crucible Theatre, which in the past few years has tempted Hollywood stars like Kenneth Branagh out of stage retirement, has just unveiled its grand plans for a radical expansion. In the 31 years since the concrete bunker-like structure was opened in Sheffield's Tudor Square, it has gained international fame as the home of the World Snooker Championships.

More recently, under the artistic direction of Michael Grandage, a succession of stars such as Sir Derek Jacobi, Joseph Fiennes and Amanda Donahoe have trodden the boards, in shows which have won critical plaudits and been showered with awards. But Mr Grandage said it was now time to take the venue to the next level and that his aim was to "revolutionise everything about the Crucible." "Our ambitions are massive," he said.

Angela Galvin, marketing director for the theatre, said exciting times were ahead: "This is not just about refurbishment, it would change the fabric of Tudor Square. We want to expand outwards and upwards." Although plans are very much in their embryonic stage, Ms Galvin said it was hoped to build an extra floor, and substantially increase the footprint of the building with three extensions. The famous thrust stage designed by Tanya Moiseiwitsch, which is one of the best examples of its type in the world, and the large auditorium seating nearly 1,000 people, would not be altered.

"£15m may sound a lot of money, but most of that will be soaked up on ungrading facilities for the 21st century, making it more accessible for disabled customers and so on." The theatre is believed to be in discussion with some big name sponsors who may come up with a substantial amount of the cash required.

However, Ms Galvin told the Yorkshire Post that one important source of funds could come from rich individuals in the US, who visited the theatre especially to see film stars like Joseph Fiennes perform. "The American appeal has just been launched. We have had many people from America here and we have kept in touch. There is a culture of individual gifts in America, and the tax system there is advantageous in that way. Five years ago we were in desperate straits. We know that we are in a good place now, but we have worked hard to get there. What we need to do is keep working on it. We have to be aspirational and build on our successes. We need to be more European and more national in our outlook. "We have already been called the 'National Theatre of the North', and we have won many awards," she said.

Branagh, who starred in an acclaimed production of Richard lll, sent a message of support to a gala evening staged by the Crucible which launch the fundraising project.

He said: "As I walked about in Sheffield, which is a city I like very very much, there was a sense – an appropriate sense – of civic pride about the Crucible. "People like their theatre and they know about it, they know what's on and they were very pleased and very welcoming for people like me to come along and do a play there. "I felt very welcomed, and I look forward very much to going back. "The Crucible is a fantastic resource, a fantastic part of the cultural life of the city."

There are lots of Stage-door Johnny...erm...Edmond photos, but most of them are still floating, out of control, in my computer. I've managed to gather together a first lot, just of Ken, for your delectation.
(17 October, thanks Catherine, Jude, Margaret, Nancy)

Me again (I did say I'd be back...). Click here to read a just-discovered article from a month ago... a fashion blurb about clothes by Eremengildo Zegna. There are two photos here. Kenneth looks a titch grim (right in tune with most of runway models of late, as discussed in numerous articles - I seem to know all kinds of useless stuff like this) but rather Irish. I would *kill* to lift that blue wall for my room. ("You're supposed to be looking at Kenneth, Renata, not the wall!). Clearing throat.... you might remember that KB has previous experience modelling Zegna (in a decidely more twinkly mood) in 1998, in connection with The Gingerbread Man. Check the photos out here: one, two, three, four, five. And I can't resist pointing to what remains one of my all-time favourite photos (who *was* the genius who paired the blue and golden wall with the blue and golden Ken?): here.

More soon...
(30 September, thanks Jane)

Hello gang - I am back from the quite amazing experience that was Edmond. That Branagh guy can act... (and I am rendered speechless). We also had the great good fortune to see the very beautiful Listening in Bristol, followed by a lively and amusing Question & Answer session with Kenneth Branagh and Simon Mosley (who has been assistant-director for KB in the past and produced Listening). There can be few more satisfying experiences than a Branagh Q&A - you definitely get answers: earnest, articulate and entertaining. An article about the evening appeared on the BBC Bristol site. You can read it here, but a MAJOR SPOILER warning applies. If you think that you might ever get the chance to see Listening don't read this until after (or read only down to the bit where I've put in the spoiler warning : a test of self-discipline, if you're into that sort of thing!). The article comes with a small photo.

Another article appeared in last Sunday's Observer and you can read it here. There is an accompanying photo.

There are a fair number of stage door photos, but I haven't quite got a grip on them yet, so they will go up next time.

But for now we have a photo of gorgeous Raul and Ken, and lovely Simona and Ken.

I am sure I have forgotten something (important) but this is it for now --- or else life and work will get in the way again (when the cat's away the mice dance... :-) ). I'll be back soon, though.
(Thanks, Beck, Claire, Simona)

Kenites - reporting here from fab Bruxelles (fattening up with biere and chocolate before seeing Edmond  :-) ).

Very quick bit of news: Kenneth Branagh will be presenting his short film Listening in Bristol on Tuesday, 16 September. You can get the details (and a nice photo) here: Till soon!
(10 September, thanks to many!)

Back again! To tell you that another Edmond review has been added to the Edmond page, and that the first phase of revamping the Photo Gallery has begun (trying not to think about how many phases it will take), and you can now see thumbnail images before clicking (or not!) for the larger images.

I'm off on a holiday for a couple of weeks - and seeing Edmond is part of the second half (rubs hands together gleefully)! I think I'll be 'connected', but there will be a little hiatus in the updates (there isn't much news anyway, luckily). So ciao for now!
(6 September)

Hi Kenthusiasts - we are in our new home, so to speak. If you encounter any problems, like missing files, etc. please let me know. Thanks, merci, danke, grazie!

I am way behind in the news and the virtul desk is an even bigger mess than usual. But I think it's been mainly bits and pieces, so, in no particular order, here goes..

Excerpted from Audiobooks Review: The Old is New Again, by Rochelle O'Gorman, in the Star Tribune, 6 August 2003:

In his abbreviated life, Anton Chekhov became a master of the short story and a world renowned dramatist before dying of tuberculosis at age 44. The better known of his many short stories are included in the superb collection "In the Ravine & Other Short Stories."

Told in plain language, each is a revealing vignette into the lives of Russians living nearly 120 years ago. The stories include the novella-length "In the Ravine," a closely examined look at life in a village through the eyes of one family. There are the comic complaints of a hassled train inspector in "Oh! The Public." A favorite is "The Chorus Girl," in which manners -- and morality -- are examined in the light of the class system.

The boredom, desire, idiocy, wisdom, tragedy and humor of his characters remain remarkably fresh. After all, red tape and religious pomposity are still around, still annoying and sometimes still humorous.

(Naxos AudioBooks, unabridged fiction, three CDs, three hours and 35 minutes, $19.98; read by Kenneth Branagh. Also available unabridged on three cassettes, $17.98; read by Branagh.)

A listener can do no better than to purchase an audiobook read by Kenneth Branagh. This gifted Brit gets under the skin of the characters, making nearly tangible their heartache, confusion or compassion. He is so talented that class differences are made clear through accent and each character sounds quite different from the others, thanks to changes in tone and pacing.

As with all Naxos productions, complete and edifying liner notes are included. The packaging is sturdy plastic and evocative classical music from Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky and others underscores the fiction but never interferes with it.

And still on the audio front... from the Edgware & Mill Hill Times, 6 August 2003:
Chicken Shed CD to Mark 30th Year

Sir Cliff Richard, Barnet's own former Spice Girl Emma Bunton, Kenneth Branagh, Gabrielle and Elaine Paige are among the stars appearing on a new CD by Southgate's Chicken Shed Theatre.

All the artists will be singing songs written by the theatre in Chase Side to mark its 30th anniversary next year. The CD will include performances from artists not normally renowned for their singing ability, such as Bob Hoskins and Rocky Horror Picture Show writer Richard O’Brien. It will also feature singer Barbara Dickson; and actor Kenneth Branagh reading some poems by Paula Rees, the Chicken Shed's writer-in-residence.

All the artists have donated their time readily to record the tracks in the theatre company's purpose-built music studio.

Chicken Shed's associate musical director David Carey, who worked closely with musical director Jo Collins and Francis Haines to compile the album, said: "Music has been central to the development of Chicken Shed and it is a tribute to the quality of that music that artists of the stature of Gabrielle and Cliff have recorded for us."

The idea for the album came about in 1999, when the theatre performed a version of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody with award-winning actress and singer Elaine Paige at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Ms Paige, who was born in Barnet, said she would love to record one of Chicken Shed’s landmark songs, We Need Each Other. The song was written by Paula Rees and recorded in June 2000 — the first step on the way to Chicken Shed creating its celebrity album.

"The Chicken Shed is an inspiration to me and everybody who sees their wonderful work," she said. "As you know, I really like the song, We Need Each Other, and I am delighted to record it for the Chicken Shed's commemorative album."

The album will be released in November on Chicken Shed’s label, Redemption Records. It will be available from major record shops or direct from the Chicken Shed Theatre Company. Pre-release orders are welcome on 020 8351 6161.

Here's a fun snippet from the Seattle Times, from an article entitled "Movie Marquee Maven Kim Huston", by Moira Macdonald, 11 August 2003:
In the long run: The marquee gets changed Thursday nights, during the final feature, unless the movie is being held over for another week. But in the case of a lengthy run, the staff tries to update the marquee at least every few weeks. For Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet," in 1996, the staff had a list of "about 25" captions, Huston remembered. "Something's Rotten in Wallingford" was a favorite, as was "Everybody Dies." (A few passers-by, who presumably slept through high-school lit, complained about the latter.)
Listening was shown at the Atlanta Film Festival, and at the Seattle International Film Festival, where it came in as fourth runner-up in the Best Short Film category. Meanwhile, at the Rhode Island Film Festival, Kenenth received the best director award for a short film. Here is an excerpt from the press release, linked above:
"We were very pleased to have on hand Stuart Bailey, the Executive Producer from Blackfriars Productions who produced Kenneth Branagh’s short film "Listening," which won First Prize for Best Director." Bailey presented Branagh’s acceptance remarks:

"I made ‘Listening’ as an experiment. I love the short film, and for me it was a marvellous way to explore a compressed narrative, where very little was said, (a real challenge for me!), and where picture, sound and silence try to work in a different relationship than in my other work. For all of us who worked on it, was a great communal and collaborative experience. It was made with love, and we offer it up to you in the same spirit.

"To all the organisers whose hard work has made it possible, to the sponsors who help enable it, and to the audience tonight and to come, who make the festival what it is. I am so sorry that I can't be with you this evening.

Thank-you once again for honouring us in this way. We truly appreciate it.
-- Ken Branagh"

And, you are still in time to see Listening at the Closing Gala of the Chichester Film Festival, 7 September. And, at the other side of the world, you can see it, together with Much Ado About Nothing, at the Los Angeles International Film Festival - L.A. Shorts Fest, which takes place between 16-22 September - at this point I have not been able to decipher exact dates for the showing from the website.

October 28 is the release date for The Lon Chaney Collection (3 silent movies) on DVD. The 2-disc set will feature the Chaney documentary "A Thousand Faces" which was narrated by Kenneth Branagh a few years ago.

A last snippet: an article in Theatregoer magazine (a small quote appeared in earlier random notes on this page) mentioned that KB is the patron of Plug Productions, a new theatre company in Northern Ireland. A website has turned up which has a bit of information about the group (it's actually the site of an individual actress, but hey). And while we're skidding on the off-topic rink, if you look you will find a new link to the site of a former Renaissance Award winner in the UAYD section of this site.

There is a "new" article, from 1983, which comes along with this "our young pup" photo of Kenneth at 22.  :-)

And from a bit later in life (bit not that much!) a photo of Kenneth and Ian Holm from Henry V.

There is also another review of Edmond, from The Economist. And... (oh goody, goody!), some photos from the stage door: three photos taken by Marga and a photo with Julia.

And that is it for today!
(1 Septmber, thanks Beck, Jude, Rachel, Marilyn, Susan, Marga, Jules)

Now that I have your attention I'm not actually posting any news, just letting you know that the Compendium is moving (it actually has already moved but today the mailman is getting the new address). It should be what I think they call transparent, i.e. no one should notice anything different (though there may be bookmark updating needed) but I'm not entirely sure - so if you don't find the site, drop me a line (course, if you don't find the site you won't be able to read this, ha ha). Also, I *think* I transferred all the 2,000+ files, but I'd appreciate hearing about anything that is missing or any bits that don't work. And I will post an update this weekend. Good luck to us! :-)
(27 August)

Yikes - today's news is almost 'olds'. I'm tied up with the Compendium's future - which is assured, don't worry - but requires a bit of work on the part of this sloth... very distracting. :-)

So the olds is that Listening was shown yesterday at the Rhode Island Film Festival. If you click on the link you will see a lovely picture of the lovelies Frances Barbour and Paul McGann, or you can click here. Sigh. A neat article appeared in the Providence Journal, as well.

Edmond! There are new reviews on the Edmond page. You can see a pack of photos from the play at the Corbis site. These are different from the NT photos. And on the wave of the success of the play the Daily Mail threw out this speculative tidbit:

Broadway beckons for Branagh"

Audiences have been packing into the National's Olivier Theatre to see Kenneth Branagh give one of his finest performances in the title role of David Mamet's searing play, Edmond. Several Broadway theatre owners and producers have seen it and are eager for Branagh to transfer with the play to New York, where it is set. Branagh should go - and he should take with him Nicola Walker, who plays a waitress who meets a nasty end. Her character is actually a would-be thespian who dreams of a life in the theatre. Watching the actress (who plays cat-loving Ruth in Spooks on BBC1) explain why she wants to tread the boards made me understand why Ms Walker herself does what she does, and why she loves what she does.

Make of that what you will, but you probably don't need to book a flight or train ticket just yet.

Random notes:
The Japanese DVD edition of Rabbit-Proof Fence will be released in two different versions: a regular, film only, single DVD and a Limited Edition 2 DVD set, with 120 min of extras including interviews, and 'making of'Australian TV special. The DVD is Region 2 NTSC; the cost is JPY4700; the release date is September 25.

Finally... a world premiere: the oldest photo - on the Compendium - from Kenneth Branagh's theatrical career. Taken by John Winter, the Assistant Director, in 1978 it shows Kenneth as Cassio in 'Othello'.

A couple of comments from Mr. Winter: [This is a] "photo of Ken taken in 1978, rehearsing a Berkshire Shakespeare Players open air production of Othello in the Reading Abbey Ruins. He played Cassio, and is standing next to Iago, played by Chris Bertrand.[snip]...with reference to the photo, he was quite brilliant as Cassio in Othello, especially the drinking scene. [snip] There were, and still are, many talented actors in Progress Theatre, and several went on to professional careers. It's important to understand that Progress was and still is one of the half dozen or so top community theatres in the country, and has always been fiercely proud of its high standards, not only in terms of production values, but also in its daring programming. You may be surprised to know that both Brecht's The Good Woman of Sezuan and Sean O'Casey's Shadow of a Gunman (which Ken much later played on tv) received their first English performances there, when none of the professional companies would risk staging them, and there have been many other ground-breaking productions there. Make no mistake, Ken needed to be good to get into any Progress Theatre cast, as parts were usually fiercely contested. What made him special was his dedication, and ruthless determination to succeed, and his amazing ability to combine this with being one of the nicest and most genuine people you could ever work with. I have a special place in his career development - I once cast him as second policeman in a one-act play - surely the most minor role he has ever been asked to take. He took it happily in his stride."
(6 August, thanks Beck, Catherine, Anna, riotgirld, Nadine, Celia, Misato, Paula V., John)

Another set of reviews have been added - they are quite dizzy-making in their praise, fun to read (but remember not to if you don't want spoilers). Alistair Macauley, who wrote so well about Richard III has done it again for Edmond. You can see the list of reviews (and read them) on the Edmond page.

I have added a couple of photos there as well. And here is another at the stage door photo (always the best kind!), Kenneth and Claire.
(23 July, thanks Catherine, typist extraordinaire; Bertilla, Claire)

The reviews for Edmond are in - all excellent, of course. My favourite headline (apart from the used-before-but-always-fun "Bran-tastic") is "So Good at Being So Bad". Oh yeah... course, I haven't seen the play yet, but I can say 'oh yeah' based on the fabulous set of production photos, which you can see here at the National Theatre web site. You can see all the reviews so far on the Edmond page. If you don't want to know all before you see the play, don't read them - a couple of the reviewers have left no surprise unturned. There are a couple of photos which I will add soon.
(20 July, thanks for the reviews are on the review pages)

If you're wondering why this page popped up so pronto, it's because the news from January to June has moved to the Archive, which might one day prove useful if you have to write a term paper on Kenneth Branagh. :-)

Edmond has opened in previews - the "foreign correspondents" who reported back from the first night were much taken with the whole (play and performance), especially those who had read the play, which, even when putting your best theatrical imagination to work, is somewhat grim reading. I think the reviews come after the "official" opening (not completely up to scratch with this kind of protocol) but the Mirror has published a promotional snippet:

It's a powerful combination - the greatest living playwright and one of Britain's greatest actors. It took David Mamet's early play Edmond to tempt Kenneth Branagh back to the London stage for the first time in 11 years. And, strangely, this is the first time he's performed at the National.

"Edmond is about an ordinary guy who gradually turns into a violent, raging animal", says artistic director Nicholas Hytner. "He spirals through several circles of urban hell to get there. It is as challenging a role as anything in contemporary theatre." Sparks will fly.
(Alun Palmer)

This is accompanied by the poster photo. [Self-indulgent editorial aside: As one who worships at the altar of Pinter (and Shax and some others), I might quibble with 'the greatest living playwright' thing... though while reading 'Edmond' I couldn't help but remember how many jokes revolved around the frequent "pause" notations in the Pinter script that long-ago summer when Mamet was "the alternate Lenny"... he learned from the master. :-) ]. No quibble with the 'one of Britain's greatest actors' bit, even if they drop the 'one of', heh heh.

There is another small article from Playbill, here (and linked from the Edmond page).

Random notes:

The Audie Awards are the premier USA audiobook awards and are held annually to acknowledge and reward excellence in audiobook publishing. This year's awards brought in a record number of entries with over 650 titles submitted. Winners are determined by a panel of over 100 judges representing all areas of the audiobook world and were announced in May at a black-tie gala ceremony held in Los Angeles.

Finalists in the 'Short Stories/Collections'category included Kenneth Branagh's interpretation of "In the Ravine & Other Short Stories", a collection of 12 outstanding stories by Anton Chekhov; in the 'Audio Drama'category - "William Shakespeare's "King Lear", performed by veteran actor Paul Scofield with Alec McCowen, Kenneth Branagh, and full cast.

For those who still wonder what happened to Alien Love Triangle, a snippet from an article on Danny Boyle, by Caryn James, in the New York Times, 2 July 2003:

Before "The Beach," Mr. Boyle had made a truly small film, an oddity called "Alien Love Triangle" that has never been shown publicly. Miramax's Dimension Films commissioned it as part of a trilogy of science-fiction shorts, then decided against releasing an anthology film. The other segments were turned into full-length features ("Imposter" and "Mimic"), but Mr. Boyle felt his story should stay as it was. Based on my private viewing of the film, he was right. It has just enough humor to sustain its 28 minutes, with Kenneth Branagh as a scientist who discovers that his wife, played by Courteney Cox, is really a male alien, whose own wife soon knocks on their door: she is Heather Graham, bald-headed and green skinned.
And... for those who are wondering if they will ever see the "Billy Plays" and have tortured the BBC by writing to an ancient address in the 1999 News Archive, a nice gentleman sent this information:
BBC Worldwide, the commercial publishing arm of the BBC has no plans at present to release the "Billy Plays" on VHS or DVD. They will consider rights sales to other broadcasters and commercial channels in the normal way -

The BBC's UK public service channels have no plans at present to repeat the "Billy Plays" although that's not to say we never will consider it. Our digital channel, BBC FOUR, would seem the most likely place that they could be aired again as they have programme strands and seasons from time to time that often take in such programmes. But, as I say, no plans at present -

Shackleton will be shown on 'regular' (vs satellite) television in Japan, 16 and 17 August.

There are a couple of articles which I didn't get round to posting earlier: one about the marriage and one "summing the latest stuff up" from the faithful Belfast Telegraph.

Five Children and It update, from Isle of Man Online, 3 July 2003:


FILMING started on Monday for Five Children and It, the £13 million movie starring Kenneth Branagh and Eddie Izzard.

Adapted from Edith Nesbit's classic children's novel, the schedule kicked off at Castletown railway station but the majority of the three and a half week shoot will take place in the Kirk Michael area, in particular Glen Wyllin beach.

The story follows the adventures of five siblings who are sent to stay with their uncle, played by Harry Potter star Branagh, in a strange house by the sea. While out exploring, they dig up an ill-tempered 8,000-year-old Psammead, or sand fairy, who grants them one wish a day. But what starts out as great fun soon turns into trouble for the youngsters.

The film will blend live action with animatronics and CGI special effects. The Psammead is being brought to life by Jim Henson's Creature Shop, the creator of the Muppet Show, with Izzard providing the voice. Given the Creature Shop's pedigree, there's a real hope this film could be the Island's biggest worldwide commercial box office hit, a title held by Waking Ned.

It's being directed by John Stephenson, who was hired by Henson in 1984 and who still heads the company. Previous films featuring the shop's work include Babe, 101 Dalmations, Dr Doolittle and Cats and Dogs.

The lead character of Robert is being played by 11-year-old Freddie Highmore, who has just completed J. M. Barrie's Neverland opposite Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet.

Southwest Filmstudios (the intro to their web site makes you want to rush to the north coast of Cornwall ASAP, with your shoes off and trousers rolled up) is hosting The National Film Exhibition, and if you click here and then on "Film Costumes", you can see Henry V's inspiring garb - it's weird how one's brain just automatically infuses this image with so much life, by association. (Or maybe I need a tranquillizer... :-) ).

Pictures! First photos from the Edmond stage door (no, that is not a white patent leather Elvis belt, it's a peeking-out t-shirt...). And a photo from the Edmond programme.

Henry V, from the RSC production: two photos from the programme, and "killing time" from the book Photographs of the Classic British Theatre, 1987.

That's it for today - more soon!
(15 July, thanks Claire, Yvonne, Jude, Jackie, David, Misato, Catherine, Bertilla, Harmony)

Extra! Extra! Something you will actually want to read (maybe again and again) - an interesting article about Kenneth Branagh, from a journalist who has made an effort (as opposed to the same-old-same-old worn-out slings and arrows comments that often pass as articles). So here it is, from the Daily Telegraph Magazine, and here is the cover photo that goes with it. Is that a puffy shirt or does Edmond only discover the gym when he gets to prison? (Sorry, couldn't resist...) I love the hair - totally cool!  (If you want to know what KB thinks about 'cool' [one of my favourite moments] dig around in the Fun FAQ, which is terribly out-of-date, but still fun).

More coming when my house becomes less crowded (and I'm trying not to miss those who have left).
(7 July, thanks Catherine, Claire)

Kenians - sorry about the gap... apart from nothing earth-shattering happening (KB got married already, heh heh) I'm having the pleasure of many visitors and attempting to treat them at least half as well as they always treat me when I gad about. But straight to what we are all here for....

Random notes on Edmond

From the May issue of Theatregoer:

"Fans of Kenneth Branagh's stage work will be chuffed to know that he has turned down a zillion dollar offer to play a baddie in the next John Woo movie to be in the National's forthcoming revival of David Mamet's Edmond."
The July 2003 issue of London Planner has a small photo of KB with this blurb:
"And the West End is a magnet for actors and audiences from around the world. As well as the firm favourites - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or The Mousetrap - there's a constant flow of new productions attracting some of the biggest names in the business: Kenneth Branagh goes on a quest for self-discovery in David Mamet's Edmond..."
From the Evening Standard of 26 June, in an interview with Edward Hall who is directing KB in Edmond:
"(Hall) is working on a play with two of theatre's giants - David Mamet and Kenneth Branagh. Branagh famously returned to stage acting after an absence of 10 years in 2002, starring as Richard III at the Sheffield Crucible, an appearance that sold out in record time and drew hyperventilating fans from as far as America and Japan."

"So how is Hall is finding directing Kenneth Branagh? 'He's faster than anyone I've ever worked with - a genius.'"

Not sure about the hyperventilating comment (maybe this journalist mistook the source of the light "smokiness" in the air...  part of the design, dear, not hyperventilating fans exhaling the last vapours of the intermission ciggie). But we are all there with the 'genius' comment. Naturally.

Unfortunately The Play What I Wrote closed on June 15. It ran a very respectable 89 performances (and 27 previews) and was nominated for a Tony Award for Special Theatrical Event. I have one last review to add, but it will have to wait until next week. Lucky duckies in the UK will get the chance to see the play, if you haven't yet (or can't get enough, like some of us). It will be on in Oxford (Oxford Playhouse, 10 - 20 September) and Salford (The Lowry, 1 December through to 13 December.

There is more but I know I won't be able to put it all up (new guest arriving tomorrow - gpod for me, bad for the Compendium...) so we'll end with a few photos. Edmond opens on Friday (why is my stomach filled with butterflies?) and the reviews will follow.

Photo finish: three more photos from the tea-party held in cold New York during the sale of preview tickets for The Play What I Wrote.

More early next week!
(2 July, thanks Catherine, Isabel, Sal, Christine, Dagmar, Jude)