The Entertainer at Garrick Theatre tickets
The Entertainer at Garrick Theatre tickets

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Overview

Kenneth Branagh ended his much celebrated season at London’s Garrick Theatre by starring in a production of John Osborne’s, The Entertainer.

Osborne’s explosive play is set in post-World War Two Britain amid the seedy glamour of surviving musical-halls. Branagh played the somewhat self-obsessed Archie, a middle aged performer whose own father, the retired Billy, saw much more success on the stage than he. John Hurt, who was originally intended to play Archie's father, Billy Rice, had unfortunately had to withdraw following the advice of his doctor. He was replaced by Gawn Grainger, whose recent work had included The Cherry Orchard, Macbeth and The Recruiting Officer.

The plot thickens as we learn that Archie has somewhat of a complicated family life. Not only are his second wife and daughter infuriated by Billy’s apparent lack of real emotion, one of his sons has been taken hostage during the War and is being held prisoner.

Apparently apathetic to his crumbling life, Archie’s only real moments of emotion are delivered amid song and dance numbers as he takes to the stage at the music-hall. Delivering scathing and sometimes profoundly political attacks on Britain amid his show numbers, it becomes clear that Archie is a deeply bitter man.

Rob Ashford directed Branagh as Archie, a role created by none other than Laurence Olivier himself. Alongside Ashford, further members of the creative team included Patrick Doyle as composer and Christopher Oram as set and costume designer.

The Entertainer began performances at the Garrick Theatre on 20th August and had its opening night on 30th August. The play ran until 12th November 2016.

Recommended for

The Entertainer is somewhat of a socio-political piece wrapped up in flecks of musical theatre. Fans of The Scottsboro Boys, or works by Brecht may very much enjoy this piece, as will fans of Kenneth Branagh who will be performing in the show.

Due to the subject matter and style of this piece, it is not suitable for children.

Age Recommendations: May not be suitable for very young children

Dates and times

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including an interval)
Opened: 20 Aug 2016
Press night: 30 Aug 2016
Booking from: 08 Nov 2016
Booking until: 12 Nov 2016

Location and map

Garrick Theatre
Charing Cross Road
London, WC2H 0HH

71 Reviews Add review

The Entertainer, the final production of Kenneth Branagh’s 2015/16 season was one of my most anticipated plays of the year and fai... More

braintree 155cm, 40 reviews, 5 helpful votes

The Entertainer, the final production of Kenneth Branagh’s 2015/16 season was one of my most anticipated plays of the year and failed to live up to expectations. It should work, Kenneth Branagh as Archie Rice is great casting as Branagh is often compared to Laurence Olivier who originated the role in 1956 despite his hostility to playwright John Osborne, but what should be Branagh’s and the play strengths, its dramatic scenes, are weak and overshadowed by the scenes where we see Rice being entertainer. To me it feels like the production took risks with the musical scenes, the first scene where Archie is rehearsing in the shadows is beautiful and for anyone seeing the cinema screenings on 27 October then it will look like it was made for film but the home scenes feel so tedious that it is hard to warm to play. There is also the fact that Branagh looks too good for his 55 years and doesn’t have the lived in look that Olivier had. The story also involves the Suez crisis and this is where it feels the production has dated. It isn’t a war people seem familiar with, an American tourist told me she was completely confused in the interval. I am afraid I haven’t read the play but it felt like either exposition was needed or had been taken out. Characters appeared and disappeared without proper introduction and it just felt like there was a desperate rush to avoid the key family drama that is at the heart of the play. The most disappointing aspect was the supporting actors with only Greta Scacchi, who is unrecognisable, providing the emotion and conflict that is needed in the production. As Phoebe Rice she has to deal with a son at war, a miserable life touring whilst her husband loses money and his infidelities. She is no means a likeable character and as a result Scacchi’s performance is entirely convincing. Gawn Grainger has a tough role as Billy Rice, Archie’s father who also worked as an entertainer. It is a thankless part and unfortunately for Grainger I found myself wondering how John Hurt, who dropped out due to health reasons, would have approached this minor role. The main issue is the younger cast, Branagh’s season has oozed with young talent such as Tom Bateman, Richard Madden, Freddie Fox, Jessie Buckley and Lily James but this final production has a weak cast of young actors. Sophie McShera looks the part as Jean Rice, Archie’s daughter, but she is no Joan Plowright, monotone and uncomfortable there is no emotion from this woman who is angry about life, I also found the Jonah Hauer-King’s performance as Frank to be unconvincing. It isn’t a bad performance but his entrance into the play comes at a strange time, the audience builds up relationship with the other Rice’s that he feels like an intruder. The strongest aspects are the staging, musical direction, choreography and costume, it looks the part but lacks in substance to make this one of the must see productions of 2016.

braintree 155cm, 40 reviews, 5 helpful votes

I thoroughly enjoyed this production, which is the last in Kenneth Branagh's season at the Garrick. It was surprising how relevant... More

susannahrosemn 5"3, 138 reviews, 4 helpful votes

I thoroughly enjoyed this production, which is the last in Kenneth Branagh's season at the Garrick. It was surprising how relevant it all seemed, despite being a post-war Osborne play. You are given a tiny window into the world of a family at war with each other, and it was very interesting to actually see how little the country has changed since the 1950's. Star performances from Gawn Grainger and Branagh, who excelled in their roles as father and son. Very enjoyable evening that I would recommend for those who enjoy slightly melancholic, moving plays.

susannahrosemn 5"3, 138 reviews, 4 helpful votes

The Entertainer is a labour of love from Kenneth Branagh, ending his year long residency at the Garrick. It's a great vehicle for ... More

NPSmith 5'10", 2 reviews, 0 helpful votes

The Entertainer is a labour of love from Kenneth Branagh, ending his year long residency at the Garrick. It's a great vehicle for him, and he has a splendid supporting cast, but the writing tends to drag in pace in some lengthy, dialogue heavy scenes. It is beautifully crafted and Christopher Oram's set design is very lovely, with its faded grandeur offering atmospheric shafts of light through the tattered plasterwork. This is a genuine period piece that takes its time but eventually delivers a poignant, melancholy ending, while giving us some delicate nostalgic references along the way.

NPSmith 5'10", 2 reviews, 0 helpful votes

Branagh performs well as the failed music hall performer, as you’d expect from the prolific West End actor. The script feels very ... More

shaun 5"10, 127 reviews, 4 helpful votes

Branagh performs well as the failed music hall performer, as you’d expect from the prolific West End actor. The script feels very relevant to post-Brexit Britain, with Osbourne’s microcosm of late 50s life being equally applicable now. The overriding tone of the play is that of misery and despair. Although this is done powerfully, it is definitely lacking in the entertainment of the title. Any humour is either intentionally bad (from the main character), or just quite wry and plain. Definitely not bad, but don’t go rushing to see it either.

shaun 5"10, 127 reviews, 4 helpful votes

This was my 3rd show of the Kenneth Branagh company season at the Garrick (after Winter's Tale and Romeo and Juliet) and as always... More

natlecoq 160cm, 23 reviews, 0 helpful votes

This was my 3rd show of the Kenneth Branagh company season at the Garrick (after Winter's Tale and Romeo and Juliet) and as always, it was a unique expérience. The cast was carefully chosen and talented. Of course, the center of the attention - for this one - was on Mr Branagh. The man is clearly at ease on stage and it is a pleasure to see him doing what he does best!

natlecoq 160cm, 23 reviews, 0 helpful votes

Uninspired production of a dated play that not even the brilliant performances by Greta Scacchi and Kenneth Branagh can elevate. T... More

sondheimkid 170, 152 reviews, 24 helpful votes

Uninspired production of a dated play that not even the brilliant performances by Greta Scacchi and Kenneth Branagh can elevate. The first act is long, dull and repetivie, the second act is quite better, but they play should have enjoyed some cuttings and sharper direction.

sondheimkid 170, 152 reviews, 24 helpful votes

The performances within the show and the production itself were of a very high standard, however personally I didn't really love t... More

laurenjfm 5'10, 25 reviews, 0 helpful votes

The performances within the show and the production itself were of a very high standard, however personally I didn't really love the play itself even though I really wanted to and felt that in some areas it dragged on a little bit. It wasn't for me but the quality of the production itself was something I'm glad I got to see

laurenjfm 5'10, 25 reviews, 0 helpful votes

Kenneth Branagh is incredibly charismatic and carries this show easily. Without someone of his talent though, I can't say I would... More

Chen 5"6, 41 reviews, 0 helpful votes

Kenneth Branagh is incredibly charismatic and carries this show easily. Without someone of his talent though, I can't say I would have enjoyed it half as much as it was his unpredictable reactions that kept me on my toes. The staging itself is beautiful, and there were really interesting touches around the stage which made it quite fascinating.

Chen 5"6, 41 reviews, 0 helpful votes

The show is not the happiest of theatre and very meaningful. Well acted by all and made the show! A great set and use of pausing a... More

paulfootie 6'3", 88 reviews, 3 helpful votes

The show is not the happiest of theatre and very meaningful. Well acted by all and made the show! A great set and use of pausing action to create effect is great! Sir Kenneth was excellent (as always!!)

paulfootie 6'3", 88 reviews, 3 helpful votes