Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The man who would be king: Kenneth Branagh makes a long-awaited return to Shakespeare (INDEPENDENT) BY PAUL TAYLOR

It's 10 years – if you exclude his rendering of the "isle is full of noises" speech from The Tempest at the Olympics opening ceremony – since Kenneth Branagh trod the boards in Shakespeare. That was in Michael Grandage's acclaimed production of Richard III at the Sheffield Crucible. And before that he hadn't appeared on stage at all for more than a decade. So his appearance as Macbeth – in the hotly anticipated production that he is co-directing with Rob Ashford in a deconsecrated church as part of this year's Manchester International Festival – must be deemed a major event.

Once again, one of the foremost Shakespearean actors of his generation has chosen to stage a rare live brush with the Bard at a venue outside London and, on this occasion, he has set his face against doing any promotional interviews. But his American collaborator, Ashford – an award-winning director/choreographer on both sides of the Atlantic (he picked up the Olivier gong for his Donmar revival of Anna Christie) – is eloquent on the subject of how the intimate site-specific location has helped to shape the production (which is set in primitive times).

"At first, the Weird Sisters seem out of place in a church. The journey – a conversation and struggle between good and evil – is to make the place feel more like a home to them. And we earn the right to do so by being very specific about when good turns to evil and why."

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