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Sir Kenneth Branagh: The new President of RADA

Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh
Photo credit Johan Persson

RADA have today announced that Sir Kenneth Branagh is their new President, succeeding Lord Attenborough who was President from 2002 until his death in 2014.

Branagh graduated from RADA in 1981 and since then has achieved notable success as an actor, director, producer and screen writer.

Branagh becomes RADA’s sixteenth president, and commented “It’s such a privilege to be asked to take up this role. I am delighted to see – and now help – RADA continue to nurture and support generations of acting and technical talent. To be able to give back to the school which provided me with so much is a wonderful honour.

Director of RADA, Edward Kemp, added “We’re thrilled to have Ken on board for the next step of the RADA journey, which includes plans to make our training even more accessible and public-facing and to renovate our Studios building to maintain our position as a world-leading drama school. The diversity of Ken’s career, not only as an actor, but as director, producer and beyond are an inspiration to us all, staff and students alike.

The Winter's Tale Garrick TheatreBranagh was on good form on The Graham Norton Show last night (Friday 2nd October, 2015), alongside other guests, Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, and Tom Hiddleston. At one point, Branagh recalled when much earlier in his career, how nervous he had been when he had to telephone Judi Dench.

Branagh, was born and raised in Belfast, the son of working-class Protestant. At the age of nine, he relocated with his family to Reading, Berkshire. He appeared in school theatrical productions which included Toad of Toad Hall and Oh, What a Lovely War!

One of Branagh’s early professional successes was in Northern Ireland for his role as Billy, the title character in the BBC’s Play for Today trilogy – known as the Billy Plays (1982–84), written by Graham Reid and set in Belfast. Immediately after leaving RADA he won the 1982 SWET Award for Best Newcomer, for his role as Judd in Julian Mitchell’s Another Country.

Branagh became a major presence on the British stage in a 1988 touring season of three Shakespeare plays under the title of Renaissance Shakespeare on the Road, which also played a repertory season at the Phoenix Theatre in London. It featured directorial debuts for Judi Dench with Much Ado About Nothing (starring Branagh and Samantha Bond as Benedick and Beatrice), Geraldine McEwan with As You Like It, and Derek Jacobi directing Branagh in the title role in Hamlet, with Sophie Thompson as Ophelia.

Branagh has also been involved in several made-for-TV films. He also played the role of Kurt Wallander, a fictional Swedish police inspector, the lead character in Wallander, written by author Henning Mankell. Branagh played the title role in BBC radio broadcasts of Hamlet and Cyrano de Bergerac, and the role of Edmund in King Lear.

Branagh has been nominated for five Academy Awards, the first man to be nominated for five different categories. He was appointed a knight bachelor in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to drama and to the community in Northern Ireland.

Derek Jacobi
Derek Jacobi. Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company. Credit Johan Persson

In April 2015, Branagh announced the formation of The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company. Working in collaboration with artistic associates, director Rob Ashford and designer Christopher Oram, the acclaimed actor-director Kenneth Branagh presents a series of plays that bring together a group of actors, led by Rob Brydon, Judi Dench, Lily James and Richard Madden, Zoë Wanamaker, John Dagleish and Derek Jacobi.

Kenneth Branagh said: “Sir Derek Jacobi has been an inspiration to so many actors and audiences throughout his brilliant career. To see him in Shakespeare is an event in itself. It’s an honour to welcome this wonderful artist to our season of Plays at the Garrick.”

Derek Jacobi said: “It’s always a privilege to return to Shakespeare. The role of Mercutio is an exciting and intriguing challenge to take on. I’m particularly happy to tackle it in the company of Richard Madden and Lily James, with whom I had such an exciting working relationship in Cinderella.”

Branagh Theatre Live Trailer 2015

The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, in partnership with Picturehouse Entertainment, will broadcast three productions of its year-long Plays at the Garrick season live to cinemas worldwide. The Branagh Theatre Live broadcast of The Winter’s Tale is at 19:00 on Thursday 26th November 2015. Broadcast dates for Romeo and Juliet and The Entertainer will be announced on the day of the preceding production’s broadcast.

The first season for The Kenneth Branagh Company includes; The Winter’s Tale, Harlequinade, All On Her Own, Romeo and Juliet, The Entertainer. http://www.branaghtheatre.com

Established in 1904, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) offers vocational training for actors, stage managers, directors, designers and technical stage craft specialists. https://www.rada.ac.uk

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  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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