John Osborne's The Entertainer is one of those iconic plays of the 1950s Royal Court that along with Look Back in Anger, that premiered the year before by the same playwright, ushered in a wholesale revolution to British theatre -- and saw even theatre establishment figures like Laurence Olivier join in and re-calibrate their careers in the process, just as John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson... Read more
The Entertainer is the final production in Plays At The Garrick season by the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company. Set against the backdrop of post-war Britain, John Osborneʼs The Entertainer is a modern classic that conjures the seedy glamour of the old music halls for an explosive examination of public masks and private torment. The play was first produced at the Royal Court Theatre in 1957 and starred Laurence Olivier in the lead role of Archie Rice, played by Kenneth Branagh in this new production. Branagh has worked closely with the production’s director Rob Ashford, who comes from a choreographic background, to ensure that his interpretation of the role is infused with theatrical grit – that the character truly comes across as a grafter, a real hoofer with an air of showmanship about him. Working with Rob Brydon on The Painkiller has also given Branagh the chance to explore his comedic chops and he willingly asked Brydon for tips on how to make the jokes land at every performance – how to adapt his performance for different audiences.
Sir Kenneth Branagh has established himself as one of England’s most formidable actors, both on stage and screen. Since winning the 1982 Olivier Award for Best Newcomer in a Play for Another Country, many of his stage appearances have been filmed, including Look Back in Anger with Emma Thompson, directed by Judi Dench and his take on the iconic, titular role of Hamlet in the 1996 film that he himself directed, which he previously performed on stage under the direction of Derek Jacobi. He has been nominated for 5 Academy Awards, and took home the Bafta for Best Director in 1989 for his work on a TV production of Henry V. With a penchant for directing, he enjoyed considerable success with The Play What I Wrote in 2001 at the Wyndham’s Theatre, winning the Olivier Award for Best Comedy in 2002; a Broadway transfer followed in 2003. He also co-directed and starred as Macbeth at the Manchester International Festival with the director of his current project, Rob Ashford. This production transferred to New York in 2014, marking Branagh’s New York stage debut.
Branagh is joined in The Entertainer by playwright and actor Gawn Grainger who will play the role of his father, Billy Rice. Grainger began his career age 12 in a production of Ivor Novello’s King Rhapsody, and was privileged to be one of the original company members of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre company when it opened in 1976. Since then Grainger has performed in many National Theatre productions including The Seagull, The Passion, A Woman Killed with Kindness and Sing Your Heart Out For The Lands. Grainger has been a constant presence in London theatre and has regularly been seen at the Donmar Warehouse and the Almeida Theatre, as well as further afield at Chichester’s Festival Theatre and in New York. Recent notable performances include Duncan in Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe and The Recruiting Officer at the Donmar Warehouse in 2012. He has been married to Zöe Wanamaker since 1994.
The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company
The inaugural season of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company has offered a year of unmissable theatre. Working in collaboration with artistic associates Rob Ashford (director) and Christopher Oram (designer), Kenneth Branagh has presented an exceptional season of five plays, bringing together some of England’s most respected actors. The year long tenure at the Garrick Theatre began in October 2015 with a production of The Winter’s Tale starring Dame Judi Dench as Paulina. This performance won her her eighth, record-breaking Olivier Award at the 2016 ceremony. Terence Rattigan’s Harlequinade and All On Her Own, starring Zöe Wanamaker, played as a double bill in rep with The Winter’s Tale until January 2016 and these plays were followed in February by Lolita Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet, starring Adrian Lester. Rob Brydon and Kenneth Branagh joined forces in March for Francis Veber’s French farce The Painkiller, in an English adaptation by Sean Foley who also directed this production. For the next play, Romeo and Juliet, Kenneth Branagh returned to his director’s chair and recruited the stars of his successful 2015 film Cinderella – Richard Madden and Lily James – to portray the star-crossed lovers. Derek Jacobi also starred as Mercutio.