Branagh Opens in Sheffield's Sell-Out Richard IIIDate: 19 March 2002
Kenneth Branagh opens tonight in Michael Grandage's already sold-out production of Shakespeare's Richard III at the Sheffield Crucible. Initially announced last May, the play became the fastest-selling show in the theatre's history. An extension - with four extra dates and 4,000 additional tickets - was announced in December, with the season now continuing until 10 April 2002.
The title role marks Branagh's return to the UK stage for the first time in a decade. The well-known writer, actor and director is, of course, an aficionado of Shakespeare. In addition to his many theatre productions for the RSC, he has been one of the main forces in bringing Shakespeare to film audiences with screen versions of Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Hamlet and Love's Labours Lost. His non-Shakespearean stage acting credits include Another Country (for which he won the Society of West End Theatres and Plays and Players awards for Best Newcomer in 1982), Look Back in Anger, Golden Girls and Public Enemy.
Branagh last appeared on stage in the RSC's 1992 production of Hamlet. More recently, in addition to his film and television work (including the TV series Shackleton and a future Harry Potter episode), Branagh undertook directorial duties for the Right Size's multi award-winning West End comedy in honour of Morecambe and Wise, The Play What I Wrote, which will transfer to Broadway next year.
Richard III is designed by Christopher Oram, with lighting by Tim Mitchell and musical compositions by Julian Phillips - who, with director Grandage, comprise the same creative team behind last year's production of Edward II, starring Joseph Fiennes.
The Shakespeare production is the sixth production in Crucible's 30th anniversary season, which culminates with a festival celebrating the work of playwright and director Peter Gill. Sheffield Crucible was recently named Theatre of the Year, in the Barclays TMA Awards for regional theatres.
In January, associate director Michael Grandage was named as the man to succeed Sam Mendes as artistic director of London's Donmar Warehouse, where his recent, highly acclaimed productions have included Privates on Parade, Merrily We Roll Along and Passion Play. Despite this appointment, Grandage intends to continue has association with the Sheffield Crucible and may look to facilitate more transfers and crossover productions between the two venues.
- by Terri Paddock