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Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Browning Version cancelled due to Covid-enforced absences

Sir Kenneth Branagh’s theatre company has axed an upcoming London production after Covid-enforced absences stopped its cast attending rehearsals.

The Browning Version was due to open at the Riverside Studios next month, with proceeds going to charity.

Its producers said its actors had been “robbed” of limited rehearsal time and that the show would not now proceed.

Branagh was to have played a classics teacher considering retirement in the revival of Terence Rattigan’s play.

Some actors have been self-isolating, while some have been unwell.

Proceeds from the production were to have been donated to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (Rada).

The Riverside Studios said it was “gutted” to learn of the cancellation, adding that ticket holders would be refunded automatically.

“Due to an increasing number of Covid-enforced absences, the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company/Fiery Angel Production of The Browning Version at Riverside Studios has had to be cancelled,” the show said in a statement.

“Despite all company members observing strict Covid protocols, multiple company members have been robbed of more than two thirds of the limited rehearsal time.

“The first run-through was conducted with only four of the seven cast members able or allowed to perform. With a short run impossible to extend due to limited cast availability, delay is impractical.”

A donation by Branagh’s company will be made to Rada, the acting school where Sir Kenneth received his training, in lieu of box office receipts.

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“We are deeply disappointed by this outcome, and hope very much to return to the magnificent Riverside Studios, and its loyal audiences, when circumstances allow,” a statement from the theatre company read.

Cast member Lolita Chakrabarti said she was “sad” to share the news with her Twitter followers and urged people to “stay safe” as coronavirus restrictions are eased.

Sir Kenneth launched his theatre company in 2015 with a season of plays at London’s Garrick Theatre that included a production of John Osborne’s The Entertainer.

The 60-year-old was to have directed as well as starred in the revival of Rattigan’s 1948 drama, which has been filmed twice with Michael Redgrave and Albert Finney in the role Sir Kenneth was to have played.

The actor will be seen next year reprising his role as detective Hercule Poirot in his new film version of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile.

The film, a follow-up to his 2017 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, was to have been released in 2020 only to have its debut delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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