Kenneth Branagh returns to stage after eight years to play King Lear

Kenneth Branagh is returning to the stage for his new Shakespeare production.

The 62-year-old, who is a devout fan of the Bard, will director and star in a new production of King Lear.

The adaptation will run at the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre for 50 performances from 21 October 2023, with the production later transferring to The Shed’s Griffin Theatre in New York in autumn 2024.

King Lear, which goes on sale on 5 June, marks Branagh’s first stage performance in eight years. His last appearance was in The Winter’s Tale in 2015, which he appeared in as Leontes opposite Dame Judi Dench.

Branagh joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984, and has adapted a number of Shakespeare works for the stage and screen over the years.

These have included film versions of Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V and Hamlet, as well as stage productions with his Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company.

Last year, the Belfast director stepped into an unexpected role as he played Boris Johnson in Sky’s Covid drama This England.

The series, written by Michael Winterbottom and Kieron Quirke, was initially met with scepticism from critics who suggested it was “too soon” to be making a show about the pandemic.

Kenneth Branagh collecting his Oscar for ‘Belfast' (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Kenneth Branagh collecting his Oscar for ‘Belfast' (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

However, Branagh disputed that argument, saying: “There will be those who say it’s too soon. I think these events are unusual and part of what we must do is acknowledge them.

“It might allow people to process a little of what went on. Any way of understanding it better is important.”

Branagh did not employ a Method acting approach to portraying the former prime minister, who he described as a “very hunched-forward kind of guy”.

The actor revealed that he had resorted to taking walks in the country after filming days in order to “unwind” from inhabiting the former prime minister.

You can read The Independent’s review of This England here.