‘The En­ter­tainer’ at Cine­plex on Sun­day


BRANAGH’S THE En­ter­tainer, a three-act play, was pro­duced by John Os­borne in 1957. His first play, Look Back in Anger, about an an­gry young man, had at­tracted a lot of pub­lic­ity but re­ceived mixed re­views. At the re­quest of the renowned ac­tor, Lau­rence Olivier, Os­borne wrote another play, this time about an an­gry mid­dle-aged man, The En­ter­tainer.

Its main char­ac­ter is Archie Rice, a fail­ing mu­sic hall per­former. The play opened on April 10, 1957, at the Royal Court Theatre, Lon­don, known for its com­mit­ment to new and in­no­va­tive works. The in­clu­sion of a West End star such as Olivier in the cast was a wow fac­tor.

Theatre crit­ics have said that ac­tor, direc­tor, pro­ducer and screen­writer Ken­neth Branagh has “so art­fully shad­owed” the ca­reer of Lau­rence Olivier that it was pre­dictable that he would even­tu­ally reprise the role of Archie Rice in The En­ter­tainer.

In the fi­nal pro­duc­tion of his 2016 West End sea­son, Ken­neth Branagh takes on the role of the fail­ing comic Archie Rice and he ex­plains how this pro­duc­tion was ap­proached. “The play is be­ing di­rected by Rob Ash­ford, with whom I’ve now col­lab­o­rated three times, and he comes from a chore­o­graphic back­ground,” Branagh said.

“He wanted me to very much con­cen­trate on Archie as a hoofer, not to feel that he was some­one who re­garded him­self as be­ing on the skids. The prob­lem for Archie is not, in Rob’s view, so much that he is trou­bled about the pos­si­bil­ity that his ca­reer and tal­ent are sec­ond-rate, but he is ter­ri­fied that his soul might be. What Rob wanted to see was a sort of the­atri­cal grafter, a hoofer, so we maybe see more of the sac­ri­fices Archie has to go through in or­der just to get on – or even be as good as he hopes will keep an au­di­ence’s at­ten­tion.”


Branagh con­tin­ued: “I think there may be just a lit­tle more danc­ing, more of that back­stage graft and a sense of the sweat on the guy than peo­ple may be ex­pect­ing.”

He also em­pha­sised the fresh­ness of the new ap­proach, which seeks to move away from the es­tab­lished bowler hat and bow tie worn by Olivier.

“We’re try­ing to get away from very strong im­ages like that. What goes with that im­age is this sense of the play as a cer­tain kind of clas­sic with maybe a few cob­webs around it ... But you could ar­gue that this is per­haps a more rev­o­lu­tion­ary play than, say Look Back in Anger. And I think it gives voice to what you might call the an­gry young woman in (Archie’s daugh­ter) Jean Rice,” Branagh said.

“I’m try­ing to come at it from a dif­fer­ent kind of place. De­spite Archie be­ing at the cen­tre of things, there’s a youth­ful fire in the play. It gives the great­est kind of prag­ma­tism and ide­al­ism and in­tel­li­gence to the women of the play, not just Jean Rice – who is in many ways the voice of the call to arms in the play for po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ment.”


“It feels very con­tem­po­rary. She is some­one who is ar­tic­u­lat­ing this ques­tion­ing of the idea that one does fol­low state and govern­ment with­out ques­tion. She en­cour­ages par­tic­i­pa­tion and demon­stra­tion and ag­i­ta­tion . ... The play is some­times thought of as a lament, a mi­nor-key wind down, end-of em­pire, with an ele­giac qual­ity that is in line with Archie’s de­cline. But what it feels like to us is much more of the usual and youth­ful Os­borne the­atri­cal grenades go­ing off,” Branagh said.

Cast mem­bers join­ing Branagh are Phil Dun­ster, Gawn Grainger, Jonah Hauer-King, Crispin Letts, Greta Scac­chi and So­phie McShera, best known in Ja­maica for her screen work, which in­cludes roles as step­sis­ter Drisella Tre­maine in Ken­neth Branagh’s ac­claimed film Cin­derella, as well as kitchen maid Daisy Robin­son in ITV’s Downton Abbey.

The Ken­neth Branagh Theatre Com­pany’s pre­sen­ta­tion of The En­ter­tainer plays this Sun­day, Novem­ber 27, at 11:30 a.m. at Palace Cine­plex. Tick­ets are on sale at the box of­fice and via the web at www.palacea­muse­ment.com with a Palace Card or any ma­jor credit card.

Ken­neth Branagh plays mu­sic hall veteran Archie Rice in John Os­borne’s ‘The En­ter­tainer’.

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