Can former Shakespearean prodigy Kenneth Branagh really be old enough to play King Lear?
The answer is ‘yes, absolutely’ - Sir Ken is somehow now 62 years old, with a career that’s taken in everything from playing the Russian bad guy in Christopher Nolan’s impenetrable ‘Tenet’ to helming the seven times Oscar-nominated black and white autobiographical opus ‘Belfast’.
Shakespeare will always be his lodestar, though, and having not actually done any since he played Leontes in ‘The Winter’s Tale’ back in 2015, it’s high time he went back to the Bard.
‘Lear’ is, of course, the summit of theatre for any self-respecting older actor. It’s the wild, elemental tragedy of the eponymous elderly monarch who divides his kingdom up between his three fractious daughters then loses his mind in a storm while they have a big barney. It’s a bit more poetic than that, though.
Branagh will both star and direct the play, which runs for 50 performances only at Wyndham’s Theatre this autumn. Beyond that, that’s all we know about the show, other than the fact it’ll transfer to New York’s The Shed in 2024.
As a director Branagh is mercurial but generally pretty accessible, if not necessarily trad… which is fine, really, as London’s had a lot of pretty arty Lears lately. It remains to be seen whether the reassuringly smiling photo of Branagh accompanying the launch of the show is indicative of the fact he’ll be playing the monarch as more likeable than usual, or if it’s simply a nice photo of Sir Ken.
By the by, you’d imagine the cast might include another big name or two, judging by past Kenneth Branagh Company form and the general juiciness of roles in the play. It’s pretty academic anyway, as with just 50 performances this is going to sell out quick sharp.
‘King Lear’ is at Wyndham’s Theatre October 21 to December 9. Tickets go on sale June 5 at noon from here.