A Look Back At The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s Season Of Plays
In the last 12 months, the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company brought to life their Season of Plays at The Garrick, bringing incredible shows and performers together for an unforgettable year. Actors who joined Kenneth Branagh himself in the season included Dame Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Zoe Wanamaker, Adrian Lester, Lily Evans, Richard Madden and more.
We’re proud to have offered £15 lottery tickets to the front row of these wonderful shows. Here’s what Kenneth Branagh himself had to say about the lotteries and their impact on the audiences.
“It has been wonderful to work with TodayTix on the Plays at the Garrick Season. Collaborating together on the ‘£15 Front Row Lottery’ has enabled us to make our productions more accessible to those that otherwise may not have been able to attend. It has been a pleasure to see a diverse group of patrons in the front row at each performance and I’m delighted that with TodayTix we have been able to introduce new audiences to the theatre.”
Let’s take a look at a few interesting facts and figures from the season:
Pretty cool, right? As the season comes to a close with the final performances of The Entertainer, we’re looking back at all the show’s we’ve enjoyed in the season.
The Winter’s Tale
Starring the legendary Dame Judi Dench, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale opened the season and earned rave reviews from critics.
“Judi Dench plays the truth-telling Paulina not as the usual angry scold but as a woman whose capacity for defiance masks a deep compassion for wayward humanity: the moment I shall long remember from this production is when Dench, having regretted her verbal rashness, gazes at Branagh’s shrunken, guilt-ridden Leontes with a silent sorrow.”
Harlequinade/All On Her Own
Zoë Wanamaker took on double duty by appearing in All On Her Own, a one-woman show, immediately followed by theatrical backstage hi-jinks comedy, Harlequinade. The Guardian praised her performance, saying: “Wanamaker, sprawled over a sofa in humiliating self-abasement, performs the piece with a soul-baring virtuosity that transcends the material and confirms that the Branagh season is devoted to actors.”
In Red Velvet, Adrian Lester portrayed African American actor Ira Aldridge as he attempts to take the stage in London in 1833. It’s themes of racism, politics and love earned it adoration from audiences and critics alike.
“The high point, however, comes when we see Lester’s Othello in performance. The voice thunders but Lester skilfully uses asides, as in his comment on Desdemona’s “liberal hand”, and repeatedly approaches her with arms outflung as if seeking to conjure up the missing handkerchief by magnetic force. It’s a magnificent piece of acting that makes you almost nostalgic for a vanished gestural style.” – The Guardian.
Rob Brydon joined Kenneth Branagh for the farcical comedy, The Painkiller, the story of what happens when a photographer and an assassin take adjoining hotel rooms, trying to shoot the same subject. Branagh seemed to relish the chance to flex his comedic chops and audiences loved it.
“Yet farce is something that takes wing in performance and Branagh, who like all the best straight actors is also a natural comic, proves adept at the genre. Initially, he displays the incandescent fury of a thwarted killer. But after he’s been mistakenly injected with a powerful tranquilliser, his body acquires a lunatic momentum of its own.”
Romeo and Juliet
Lily Evans and Richard Madden took on the role of the iconic star-crossed lovers in Romeo and Juliet, with the fantastic Sir Derek Jacobi as Mercutio – an unusual casting choice which paid off.
“The idea is clearly that Mercutio is a dandified old swinger who likes to hang out with young men, and Jacobi brings to the role both a sashaying charm and his own minute precision with the verse: it is a pleasure to hear him treat the Queen Mab speech not as a manic rant but as a series of microscopic images so that we actually imagine “the wings of grasshoppers”.
Closing the season is John Osbourne’s The Entertainer, starring Kenneth Branagh and Greta Scacchi. Set in post-war Britain, it examines the brave faces we wear in public when all about us is crumbling: “The brilliance of Osborne’s play lies in its use of the dying music hall as a metaphor for the declining British empire. Osborne’s protagonist, Rice, is a clapped-out comic staving off bankruptcy as he tours a shoddy nude revue round the halls.”