Branagh won rave reviews last year for Michael Grandage's production of Richard III at the Sheffield Crucible (See News, 19 Mar 2002). The play marked Branagh's return to the UK stage for the first time in a decade. The writer, actor and director has been working mainly in film in recent years, and has been one of the driving forces in bringing Shakespeare to film audiences with his screen versions of Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Hamlet and Love's Labours Lost. His other recent film credits include Shackleton, Conspiracy, Celebrity and the Harry Potter trilogy.
Branagh's early career was firmly rooted in theatre, however. Previously a regular with the Royal Shakespeare Company, his non-Shakespearean stage 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. More recently, he's also directed the Right Size's multi award-winning West End comedy The Play What I Wrote, which transfers to Broadway next month.
Like Branagh a keen proponent of Shakespeare, Edward Hall (son of Sir Peter Hall) has established a formidable reputation for his handling of the bard's work at the Royal Shakespeare Company and with his own all-male Propeller Theatre company, based at the Watermill in Newbury. Hall was nominated for an Olivier and Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Director for Propeller's Rose Rage, a two-part adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry VI trilogy, which had a West End run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in summer 2002.
Amongst Edward Hall's other notable productions are the current West End Macbeth starring Sean Bean; the Greek tragedy, Tantalus, John Barton's ten-hour epic which he co-directed with his father; and the revival of Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife, also seen last year in the West End.
Edmond revolves around a successful businessman who leaves his family on the advice of a fortune teller. He's subsequently mugged, robbed and imprisoned for murder then sodomised by his cellmate. The NT's revival will mark the second major Mamet production in London this year. His 1974 play, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, opens at the West End's Comedy theatre in May, starring Minnie Driver, Matthew Perry and Hank Azaria.
Mamet's plays include Glengarry Glen Ross (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize), Oleanna, American Buffalo, Boston Marriage and Speed the Plow, all of which have had major London productions. He's also well known for his films, such as The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Untouchables, Hoffa and Wag the Dog, as well as several adaptations of his plays.
At the National, Edmond follows Henry V (starring Adrian Lester) and His Girl Friday (starring Alex Jennings and Zoe Wanamaker) in artistic director Nicholas Hytner's inaugural season, during which two-thirds of seats in the NT Olivier will be priced at just £10 (See News, 23 Jan 2003).
- by Terri Paddock