Review Roundup: Kenneth Branaugh Stars In THE ENTERTAINER!
On August 31, Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company's production of THE ENTERTAINER opened at the Garrick Theatre. Rob Ashford directs a cast that also includes Gawn Grainger, Phil Dunster,Jonah Hauer-King, Crispin Letts, Sophie McShera, Greta Scacchi, Lauren Alexandra, Yasmin Harrison, Pip Jordan and Kate Tydman.
Set against the backdrop of post-war Britain, John Osborne's modern classic conjures the seedy glamour of the old music halls for an explosive examination of public masks and private torment.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
BroadwayWorld, Marianka Swain: Branagh's is a bravura song and dance performance, but almost too slick for third-rate hoofer Archie. His tapping is assured, his singing decent, and he eagerly embraces the deliberately terrible patter, soggy with innuendo. What's missing is the palpable sheen of desperation, the manic drive of someone for whom the spotlight is not a bonus, but a harrowing addiction, even though he has just enough self-awareness to realise his talent isn't equal to it.
WhatsOnStage, Sarah Crompton: The problem is compounded by Branagh's performance. As the on-stage Archie, all camp innuendo and desperate, dying gags, he captures the bravado of the man, but he can't seem to find the measure of his emotional bankruptcy in his private life. He actually looks too modern in a shirt and suit that seem out of period. You never get beyond the actor's charisma to see the void within the man he is playing.
The Guardian, Michael Billington: But, while Osborne skilfully allows the rat-a-tat patter of Archie's front-cloth numbers to bleed into the family scenes, they still remain separate: Ashford's mistake is to merge them into one continuous event. Christopher Oram's design, dominated by a crumbling proscenium arch, suggests the Rice family live surrounded by the backstage detritus of grimy mirrors and clothes racks
TimeOut, Andrzej Lukowski: Especially when you've got such a cracking turn from Branagh himself, giving easily his best performance of the season. His Archie is an often understated, melancholy everyman, whose viler utterances are generally booze-induced, and who seems beset not so much with nastiness as total weariness. He is spiritually exhausted - perhaps because of the war, perhaps because of his declining trade - and it has left him numb and divorced from the consequences of his actions.
Daily Mail, Quentin Letts: 'I'm dead behind the eyes,' says adulterous Archie. Sir Ken's eyes, however, dart here and there. He brims with energy. Always does. Greta Scacchi is rather good as Archie's gin-swilling wife, the underloved Phoebe. She summons a convincing whiff of the 1950s with her lumpy dress and a blondeish wig.
The Hollywood Reporter, Stephen Dalton: Measured against Olivier's seedy magnetism and Lindsay's muscular brio, Branagh's performance inevitably lacks depth. His comic zingers, like his attempts at pathos, feel studied and forced. Still boyish and trim, with lithe dancing skills to the fore, he never convinces as a midlife mediocrity sinking into a swamp of boozy self-loathing.
The Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish: The blunt truth? Olivier's - to judge by the 1960 film - is the superior performance, blessed with a mercurial vitality and dangerous mischief that the benign Branagh can't match. Yet Sir Ken goes some considerable and impressive way to stamping his own authority and personality on the part.
The Independent, Paul Taylor: Branagh rises to the occasion with a performance that is never less than thoroughly arresting, even in those moments when you wonder if it gives off the full reek of the character's failure, while Rob Ashford's freshly-conceived revival rounds off this Company's year-long residency at the Garrick with panache.
Evening Standard, Henry Hitchings: Sharp timing is the hallmark of Branagh's performance. But with his agile movement and calf muscles like cannon balls, he isn't exactly the epitome of a clapped-out vaudevillian. On the one hand he's too slick, tap-dancing suavely, and on the other he makes Archie seem too contemptuous of his own routine.
The Stage, Mark Shenton: Branagh brings a sprightly physical agility to the role. There's also a remorseless sadness to the character who knows that he's dead behind the eyes. "I'm dead, just like the whole, dumb, shoddy lot out there," he tells his daughter Jean. Branagh conveys this defeat of spirit with a profound pathos. Rob Ashford's hauntingly beautiful, atmospheric production may have a glitzy sheen - there's an onstage band and a chorus of four dancers - but it doesn't stint on the overwhelming air of defeat.
TheArtsDesk, Aleks Sierz: Branagh plays him with enormous confidence, emerging from a blaze of light at the back of the stage and tap dancing his way around The Shadows. But although he effectively shows Archie's manic need to keep talking and to keep performing, he isn't really sleazy enough, nor - as the text demands - "dead behind the eyes". Branagh simply doesn't ooze failure.
The London Theatre, Mark Shenton: It takes a bold, brave performer to offer a shambling, stumbling man in such a raw state; and while Kenneth Branagh gives a shimmering glimmer of the man he wishes he was in a fantasy-like dance sequence of concentrated power that opens the show, he's also an immensely solitary character: trapped, literally, in a spotlight.