A peek behind the curtain at Branagh's prince

Artspeople with David Lister
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The Independent Online
Kenneth Branagh's film of Hamlet does not open until next year, but I had an exclusive peek at the rushes this week, and pretty impressive they were. A moustachioed Branagh, who both directs the film and plays the boy himself, sets it in the 19th century, with opulent costumes and scenery. I found his performance particularly moving, and his scenes with Kate Winslet's Ophelia electric.

With an eye on the American box office, John Gielgud, Derek Jacobi, Sir Richard Attenborough, Julie Christie and Kate Winslet are joined in the cast by Charlton Heston, Robin Williams and Jack Lemmon, though Lemmon's drawl of "There is something rawten in the state of Denmark" jars slightly.

The film should see a return of that much-missed cinematic event, the intermission, for Branagh is refusing to countenance any cuts in the text - which could mean a four-hour movie. The full-length version is "a complete entertainment", says Ken defiantly.

The master of ceremonies at the Esquire/Apple/Waterstone's Non-Fiction Award next month might have to be on guard against confusing his Healys when he announces the winner. Two of the seven finalists are called Healy - Dermot, author of The Bend For Home, and Thomas, author of A Hurting Business.

On the other hand, if a Healy does win and the MC is suitably sadistic he could just announce the winner as Mr Healy, and let the two of them fight their way to the podium.

How do you ensure an upturn in ticket sales in the West End of London? Announce that the show is closing. Since producers Robert Stigwood, Paul Nicholas and David Ian said that Grease was to close, the production has been sold out and will now "close" at the Dominion Theatre, only to reopen at the Cambridge Theatre just down the road.