Sir Kenneth Branagh: The new President of RADA

kenneth-branagh290RADA have today announced that Sir Kenneth Branagh is their new President, succeeding Lord Attenborough who was President from 2002 until his death in 2014.

Branagh graduated from RADA in 1981 and since then has achieved notable success as an actor, director, producer and screen writer.

Branagh becomes RADA’s sixteenth president, and commented “It’s such a privilege to be asked to take up this role. I am delighted to see – and now help – RADA continue to nurture and support generations of acting and technical talent. To be able to give back to the school which provided me with so much is a wonderful honour.

Director of RADA, Edward Kemp, added “We’re thrilled to have Ken on board for the next step of the RADA journey, which includes plans to make our training even more accessible and public-facing and to renovate our Studios building to maintain our position as a world-leading drama school. The diversity of Ken’s career, not only as an actor, but as director, producer and beyond are an inspiration to us all, staff and students alike.

Branagh, was born and raised in Belfast, the son of working-class Protestant. At the age of nine, he relocated with his family to Reading, Berkshire. He appeared in school theatrical productions which included Toad of Toad Hall and Oh, What a Lovely War!

One of Branagh’s early professional successes was in Northern Ireland for his role as Billy, the title character in the BBC’s Play for Today trilogy – known as the Billy Plays (1982–84), written by Graham Reid and set in Belfast. Immediately after leaving RADA he won the 1982 SWET Award for Best Newcomer, for his role as Judd in Julian Mitchell’s Another Country.

Branagh became a major presence on the British stage in a 1988 touring season of three Shakespeare plays under the title of Renaissance Shakespeare on the Road, which also played a repertory season at the Phoenix Theatre in London. It featured directorial debuts for Judi Dench with Much Ado About Nothing (starring Branagh and Samantha Bond as Benedick and Beatrice), Geraldine McEwan with As You Like It, and Derek Jacobi directing Branagh in the title role inHamlet, with Sophie Thompson as Ophelia.