BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Ken to Storm West End With His Own Troupe Which Includes Shakespeare's 'The Winter's Tale'

The Daily Mail, 29 January 2015
By Baz Bamigboye
*Thanks, Jane

Award-winning theatrical knight Kenneth Branagh is setting up his own theatre company to mount a season of plays in the West End.

Branagh and his associates are still discussing the full programme, expected to run for around three months from October, but it will include Shakespeare's 'The Winter's Tale', plus a new original play and another classic.

Branagh, who will direct some productions and appear in others, has entered into an agreement with Nica Burns, who runs, with Max Weitzenhoffer, the Nimax theatre group in London. The Branagh ensemble will take over Nimax's Garrick Theatre.

Branagh has already established important relationships for the as-yet unnamed company.

The Fiery Angel theatre producers will general manage the ensemble; Lucy Bevan, a top casting director for stage and screen, will cast the productions and other crew are being contracted. Branagh had, at one point, expressed an interest in running the Old Vic. But he withdrew his name from consideration long ago because of his much in demand work as a movie director. (His beautifully romantic 'Cinderella' for Disney will screen at the Berlin Film Festival on February 13.)

His new venture is in the great tradition of the theatrical actor-managers who once dominated the West End landscape.

The creation of the Branagh company comes 23 years after he and partner David Parfitt disbanded the Renaissance Theatre Company, set up in 1986 with a little help from Branagh's then wife Emma Thompson and friends like Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Richard Briers, Geraldine McEwan and Samantha Bond.

Branagh is also in early discussions about the possibility of bringing his Manchester International Festival production of 'Macbeth' to Alexandra Palace in North London. When Branagh and co-director Rob Ashford were developing Macbeth to go to New York, they used facilities at Ally Pally.

A spokesman for Branagh said that at the moment it was 'conjecture' to suggest Macbeth would play Ally Pally, though a spokesman for the historic complex in Wood Green said: 'Nothing has been confirmed. Nothing has been agreed.'

There are also informal conversations between Branagh and Martin Scorsese about making a film based on the MIF 'Macbeth'. Scorsese caught the production in New York and was much taken with it.

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