Kenneth Branagh to Make Stage Debut in New York as Macbeth
After a string of sold-out performances at the Manchester international festival, Branagh will bring 'Macbeth' to New York

Excerpted from The Guardian, 20 August 2013
By Charlotte Higgins

The atmosphere was fraught and visceral, and audiences were so close to the action that some were spattered with mud and stage blood. Now Sir Kenneth Branagh is bringing his 'Macbeth', which was first performed to audiences of just 260 in a deconsecrated Manchester church, to New York. It will be his stage debut in the city.

The production's 18 performances in Manchester sold out instantly (though were also shown in cinemas as part of the NT Live series, and on a big screen in the city to an alfresco audience of 5,000). It will be reconfigured next June for the Park Avenue Armory Drill Hall, a 55,000 sq ft space with capacity for anywhere between 200 and 5,000 people.

The production, staged as part of the Manchester international festival in July, received glowing reviews: for the Guardian's Michael Billington, it "evoked golden memories of Olivier in the role" ; the New York Times's Ben Brantley said it was, like Branagh's 1980s stage and screen realisation of Henry V, "a crowd pleaser in the best sense".

The play will again be co-directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford, with Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth. She will also be making her New York stage debut.

Such was the vigour of the production - in an interview with the BBC, Branagh warned that "metal clashes, sparks literally fly" - that one cast member was hurt during a fight sequence on stage and taken to hospital as a precaution.

Alex Poots, artistic director of both the Manchester international festival and the Armory, said he was "thrilled" that Branagh would be recreating his role in New York. Branagh said: "Utilising the possibilities of the vast open space is a truly exciting prospect. I am delighted that we have the chance to recreate 'Macbeth' in this epic setting."

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