An exciting new theatre company are set to take the West End by storm, as The Garrick Theatre becomes the resident home of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company from October 2015 to November 2016.
Led by actor-director Sir Kenneth Branagh, the upcoming season of plays sees a welcome return to the stage for a number of actors and directors in a wide range of productions from classic Shakespeare to brand new farces. Working alongside artistic associates director Rob Ashford and designer Christopher Oram, this incredible year long season will see performers such as Rob Brydon, Judi Dench, Lily James and Richard Madden take to the Garrick Theatre stage is what is already expected to be one of the most exciting theatrical events for many years.
Actor and director Kenneth Branagh has achieved national treasure status thanks to his extensive work on both film and stage. Last seen in the West End in the Donmar's 2008 production of Chekhov's 'Ivanov', the Academy Award nominee has gone on to carve a successful career re-imagining classic texts. As a director, his work on film has been celebrated internationally – including his versions of 'Henry V', 'Much Ado About Nothing' and 'Othello'.
2013 saw his first collaboration with director Rob Ashford, as the pair brought a new version of Macbeth to Manchester, which was later screened globally and enjoyed a successful run in New York. This new season will see them working together on a number of different plays, with Branagh starring once again in the central roles, alongside an all star cast, with many names yet to be announced.
The first production of the season will be a new imagining of Shakespeare's late problem play 'The Winter's Tale', starring Kenneth Branagh and Dame Judi Dench. Running from 17 October 2015 to 16 January 2016 this tragicomedy is one of Shakespeare's most intricate works, blending the pastoral world of Bohemia with King Leontes' Sicilia – highlighting how jealously and obsession can be overcome by the power of forgiveness and redemption.
This will be a rare chance to see Branagh and Dench side by side in the West End, in a brand new Shakespeare production. As two of Britain's most celebrated actors, this production is likely to become one of the most anticipated plays of the season.
Running alongside the production in rep will be a brand new production of Terrence Rattigan's one act comedy 'Harlequinade', which runs from 24 October 2015 to 13 January 2016. Branagh will once again star in the backstage farce, co-directing alongside Rob Ashford.
The comedy is set backstage as a theatre company are preparing to present 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'The Winter's Tale'. Led by a husband and wife acting duo, the company is thrown into disarray as secrets from the past come to the foreground, proving that sometimes the best drama occurs behind the scenes.
Spring 2016 will see the London transfer of 'The Painkiller', adapted and directed by Sean Foley from the original French farce by Francis Veber, which runs from 5 March 2016 to 30 April 2016. This comic tour-de-force was originally presented at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, and will reunite Kenneth Branagh and Rob Brydon in a hilarious physical comedy that follows two men in two lonely hotel rooms, with one adjoining door. One man is a killer, and the other wants to die. What could possibly go wrong?!
Director Sean Foley is no stranger to West End comedy, having recently directed 'Jeeves and Wooser – Perfect Nonsense', 'I Can't Sing!' and 'The Ladykillers'. Here he is reunited with Branagh, who directed his production of 'The Play What I Wrote' originally in the West End. Comedian Rob Brydon also makes a welcome return to the West End following a hilarious turn in 'A Chorus of Disapproval' at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2012.
The second Shakespeare production of the season will be a brand new version of 'Romeo and Juliet' which will see Branagh direct Richard Madden and Lily James, the stars of his recent live action 'Cinderella', in the roles of the star crossed lovers. Running from 12 May 2016 to 13 August 2016, this heartbreaking tale of forbidden love is one that has inspired generations of adaptations and thoroughly deserves to be seen in its original form. 'Game of Thrones' star Richard Madden plays opposite 'Downton Abbey's' Lily James in one of the most beautiful love stories ever told.
The final production of the season will be a welcome revival of John Osborne's modern classic 'The Entertainer' starring Branagh in the central role of Archie Rice. The epitome of kitchen-sink realism, this dark comic play blends the declining world of British music hall with a striking domestic drama in the bleak atmosphere of post-war Britain. Archie Rice's comic act is as tragic as his home life, and Osborne's celebrated play acts as a window into the decline of British Imperialism following the Second World War.
Rob Ashford directs the production which blends song, dance, music and drama into one of the twentieth century's most important plays, with Branagh playing the unforgettable role of Archie Rice. This finale production will run from 20 August 2016 to 12 November 2016.