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Kenneth Branagh backs plans to restore Alexandra Palace’s derelict theatre

PUBLISHED: 15:26 22 May 2014 | UPDATED: 15:26 22 May 2014

Kenneth Branagh meets with pupils from Heartlands High School at Alexandra Palace. Picture: Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images for Alexandra Palace

Kenneth Branagh meets with pupils from Heartlands High School at Alexandra Palace. Picture: Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images for Alexandra Palace

Archant

One of the country’s best-known and best-loved Shakespearean actors has thrown his support behind the plans to regenerate Alexandra Palace’s theatre.

Kenneth Branagh meets with pupils from Heartlands High School at Alexandra Palace. Picture: Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images for Alexandra PalaceKenneth Branagh meets with pupils from Heartlands High School at Alexandra Palace. Picture: Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images for Alexandra Palace

Sir Kenneth Branagh, who has spent the last week working at the Victorian venue as he prepares to move his critically-acclaimed production of Macbeth to New York, met with members of the palace’s regeneration team to discuss the Heritage Lottery Fund-supported plans and offer strategic advice.

And it seems the five-times Oscar-nominated actor and director has been hugely impressed by the beauty of the derelict theatre - as well as the scheme which will see it reopened to the public as a flexible working space.

Speaking today (Thursday), Branagh said: “When I first saw the Victorian theatre at Alexandra Palace I was struck by discovering this well-kept secret; something lost that should certainly not be forgotten.

“I look forward to watching the theatre come alive again through the work of the regeneration project.”

Kenneth Branagh has backed the theatre plans.Kenneth Branagh has backed the theatre plans.

His support is a huge boost for palace bosses, who are hoping to secure the cash for the theatre and its wider regeneration plans.

The HLF has already given Alexandra Palace £844,800 to help develop its final plan, which will then, hopefully, secure the final £16.8million needed to turn the entire dream into a reality.

Ally Pally chief executive Duncan Wilson said: “It has been a privilege to have Kenneth Branagh and his company rehearsing Macbeth at Alexandra Palace.

“I’m especially appreciative of the keen interest that Kenneth has taken in our restoration of the derelict Victorian theatre. His performance insight and experience has proved invaluable in our current planning of its exciting future.”

But Belfast-born Branagh has not just been in rehearsals during his fleeting visit – he has also been sharing his wealth of knowledge.

On Tuesday, a group of students from Heartlands High School took part in an acting workshop with Branagh.

The students got an hour of the hugely talented actor’s time, during which they discussed his role in Macbeth, Shakespeare and their career aspirations.

Rachel Caine, head of drama at the Wood Green school, said: “Tuesday was fantastic – the students loved it.”

Branagh added: “Alexandra Palace’s learning and community outreach programme was a fun way to discuss Shakespeare with a number of talented local drama students.

“It’s an impressive programme.”

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