News Criminal mastermind: Henning Mankell

Mankell will document his battle with the disease for a newspaper column

FILM / The werewolf as social-climber: Time was when the werewolves were tacky, low-rent punks. But in recent years they've become sophisticated and upwardly mobile. Jack Nicholson's hairy monster, on view from tomorrow in Wolf, confirms the werewolf's social ascendancy

In his novelty hit song 'Werewolves of London', Warren Zevon claimed that he had seen Lon Chaney Jr - by which he clearly meant not the actor himself but his most famous role, Larry Talbot, the sad hero of Universal's The Wolf Man (1941) - escorting Her Majesty the Queen. The rock star had also, he sang, been impressed by the sight of 'a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's'. 'His hair', Zevon noted with a careful hint of envy, 'was perfect.' Originally released in the late Seventies, Zevon's song has proved prophetic.

Dear Kenneth Branagh: One actor advises another not to play Obi-Wan Kenobi in the latest Star Wars sequel. The Force may not be with him

I hear that Hollywood wants to woo you with one of its biggest accolades - the part of the guru Obi-Wan Kenobi in the new Star Wars film. And this is why I'm writing to you, Ken. I wonder if you know just how much Obi-Wan means to the post-hippy generation.

Theatre / And what's more . . .

Arthur Miller's Broken Glass, currently on Broadway, comes to the National Theatre in August in a revised version. Meanwhile, Kenneth Branagh is in negotiation to direct Miller's own screenplay of his classic The Crucible . . .

Bunhill: Reel uncertainty

RUMOURS of the demise of Kenneth Branagh's corporate empire have, it appears, been greatly exaggerated. Only one small company, Renaissance Theatre, has been folded. Its much bigger sibling, Renaissance Films, remains.

Show People: A jewel called Sewell: Rufus Sewell

IN GEORGE ELIOT's Middlemarch, Will Ladislaw, the romantic hero, has grey eyes rather near together, a delicate irregular nose with a little ripple in it, and hair falling backward. But in the BBC's version of Middlemarch, Rufus Sewell's Will Ladislaw has hazel eyes set wide apart, a strong straight nose, and curly black hair falling across his forehead.

FILM / A long way from paradise

Close to Eden (15). . .Sidney Lumet (US)

Letter: Weak whats?

IT IS just possible that first-night nerves caused Kenneth Branagh to say that old men had 'most weak hands' in Act II, Scene 2 of Hamlet ('The Critics', 20 December). Irving Wardle should know that what Shakespeare wrote, and we both heard John Gielgud say, was 'most weak hams' - which makes much more sense. He also gazed at the legs of Polonius, rather than his hands.

CRITICAL ROUND-UP / He's back and this time it's personal: Kenneth Branagh, the RSC's Hamlet, has played the role before. But how do the two performances measure up?

Kenneth Branagh has tackled the Prince of Denmark three times in the last four years: in a BBC radio production which will be re-broadcast on Radio 3 at 7.30 on Sunday, in Renaissance Theatre Company's 1988 production and in the new RSC production directed by Adrian Noble. Practice seems to have made perfect, as comparison of the 1988 and 1992 reviews of his stage Hamlets reveals:

THEATRE / Long, sad tale of a great Dane: Paul Taylor reviews Kenneth Branagh in the RSC's Hamlet

There is nothing like a Dane; nothing in the world. Or at any rate, Kenneth Branagh must think so, for this is no less than his third stab at playing the greatest Dane of them all, Hamlet. When he last tackled the part on stage in 1988, he drew an impressive portrait of reckless, self-divided impetuosity. This would-be revenger came across, at times, as a sort of Errol Flynn with a PhD, his swashbuckling action- man pose fated to buckle under the complex burden of consciousness.

THEATRE / Hamlet - Lilian Baylis, London EC1

Although it opened earlier, I doubt that this Hamlet will give Kenneth Branagh's RSC production much competition. That's not a fair comparison, but Compass Theatre's small-scale, touring Danemobile falls into every trap inherent in the allure of this most tempting play. Throughout, posturing is substituted for passion and effect for clarity: each speech is played in isolation, according to received notions of a scene's significance, with no narrative or emotional coherence.

FILM / Nuts and bolts: Rick Richardson visits the set of Frankenstein: The Real Story and talks monsters with Randy Quaid

Randy Quaid is no Boris Karloff, nor does he want to be. 'I'm playing a monster who is mostly human,' Quaid says in his molasses-slow, Deep South drawl from beneath five-and-a-half hours of painstakingly applied prosthetic make-up. He's playing Frankenstein straight, the way Mary Shelley might have liked it, in the Turner Network-Thames TV production of Frankenstein: The Real Story.
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