Now Sir Kenneth Sets His Sights on the Scottish Crown

Excerpted from The Daily Mail, 8 November 2012
By Baz Bamigboye

Kenneth Branagh will take up the bloody dagger to play 'Macbeth' — the first time he has starred in Shakespeare’s bloodthirsty tragedy.

In the Bard’s tale, three witches prophesise that Macbeth will be crowned king.

The actor should, perhaps, banish such thoughts from his head, because on this very day he is being knighted at Buckingham Palace for services to drama and the community in Northern Ireland.

Branagh, who has essayed many of the great Shakespearean roles on stage and screen, will play the Thane who has such ‘black and deep desires’ during the fourth Manchester International Festival next summer.

The festival will run from July 4-21, although the actual dates for Macbeth won’t be released till next week.

The American director Rob Ashford will direct. (Actually, I’d heard that Branagh and Ashford would co-direct, but there was no confirmation of this last night.) Ashford has won awards and acclaim in this country for powerful productions at the Donmar Warehouse of 'A Streetcar Named Desire', with Rachel Weisz and Ruth Wilson, and 'Anna Christie', starring Jude Law and Ms Wilson again.

Previous iterations of the Manchester International Festival have launched new works such as the Damon Albarn and Rufus Norris opera 'Doctor Dee', and Victoria Wood’s musical 'That Day We Sang'.

A member of the artistic team at the Royal Exchange in Manchester noted that it would be ‘unusual’ to stage a Shakespeare play at the festival, though they added ‘perhaps Branagh has a revolutionary take on it’.

The short run suits the actor, because his film career has moved into top gear of late.

He was nominated for an Academy Award and a Bafta for his astute portrait of Laurence Olivier in 'My Week With Marilyn'. He also directed the comic-book film 'Thor'.

He’s also directing (and appearing) in a thriller about Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst Jack Ryan, with Chris Pine and Keira Knightley in the lead roles.

There are other film projects in the pipeline, too — and Branagh still has to shoot a final series of 'Wallander' for producer Andy Harries and BBC TV.

However, if the Scottish play strikes gold — or, more appropriately, blood — perhaps he and Ashford might do a short London season, a tour, or even skip over to Brooklyn or Broadway.

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