Review Roundup: Kenneth Branagh and Rob Brydon's 'The Painkiller'

Broadway World, 18 March 2016
Thanks, Jane

Last night, Kenneth Branagh and Rob Brydon opened in THE PAINKILLER at Garrick Theatre, the fourth production in Branagh's resident season. The pair last joined forces for Sean Foley's adaptation of Francis Veber's classic French farce at the Lyric, Belfast in 2011. They're joined in the Garrick production by Claudie Blakley, Marcus Fraser, Mark Hadfield and Alex Macqueen, and the show runs until April 30. For more information or to buy tickets, visit

Let's see what the critics had to say:

Michael Coveney, Apart from there being a very good reason why the porter (the ingeniously inventive, always hangdog and flustered Mark Hadfield) should enrol Ralph to keep an eye on his suicidal neighbour, it would be both fruitless and impossible to untangle all the by-ways of the plot, except to say everything is more or less in place - that is to say, the wrong place - by the end.

Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph: Not a feast for hunk-seeking eyes - some people may need a stiff drink, or even smelling-salts after witnessing a Brydon present a view of his rear so indecent it would even lower the tone at the Cheltenham races; though at 55, Branagh can take some pride in his remarkably toned appearance. But it's all in the good cause of comic high jinks.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: The plot, with its distinct echoes of 'The Odd Couple', is a bit strained. It also introduces, in the shape of the lover of Brian's wife, the least likely psychiatrist in world drama. Yet farce is something that takes wing in performance and Branagh, who like all the best straight actors is also a natural comic, proves adept at the genre. Initially, he displays the incandescent fury of a thwarted killer.

Ann Treneman, The Times: Laugh? We almost died. No, wait, they almost died, and more than once. There is nothing subtle about this farce by Francis Veber, adapted by Sean Foley, who also directs. It's 90 minutes without an interval, crammed with farcical action, what with the door slamming, guns going off, mistaken identities, shower disasters, trousers up and down. Can a play be categorised as underpants noir? I do hope so.

Quentin Letts, Daily Mail: It makes for a cheerful enough evening and offers the sight of not only Sir Ken with his trousers round his feet, but also Rob Brydon. Then there is the vision of the great Branagh playing a man stoned out of his head on horse tranquilliser. He does this rather brilliantly, even if the direction runs a little out of hand.

Back to Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company page | Back to Articles Listing | Back to the Compendium