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The Painkiller

Published 18 March 2016

What’s it all about?

Imagine one of our finest Shakespearean performers decided to take time off from soliloquising to just have a laugh playing, I don’t know, a reluctant hitman who finds himself in all manner of misunderstood positions and gets drugged up to the eyeballs. That’s The Painkiller.

Who’s in it?

This is all about Kenneth Branagh, who turns up his performance to 11, gurning, slurring, stomping and fighting his way through a frenetic 90 minutes of Francis Veber’s French farce.

Branagh’s partner in crime, Rob Brydon, is perfection as the depressing, annoying, clinging Dudley, the occupant of the adjoining room in the hotel in which Branagh’s Ralph is preparing to do one final job.

What should I look out for?

So much of the success of this show is about the physical comedy. With eight doors on the set, look out for more injury-inducing slams than at Wrestlemania, the “Here’s Johnny” moment and a skit that could come straight from a Generation Game contest.

In a nutshell?

Branagh is brilliant in this fabulously funny French farce; you’ll need a painkiller for your aching sides.

Who was in the press night crowd?

Olivier Award nominee Judi Dench popped back to the Garrick to see her The Winter’s Tale co-star ham it up like a pig-obsessed butcher. Branagh’s Best Actor rival Adrian Lester was also in the audience.

What’s being said on Twitter?

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Will I like it?

It would be hard not to smile during The Painkiller. It’s one of those shows where the performers’ enjoyment radiates from the stage.

You could argue that it would add depth to the show if we knew and cared more about the central pairing, but they’re really just there to antagonise and annoy while unwittingly having a bit of a bromance, and be sillier than a rifle shooting bananas.

If slapstick physical comedy and silliness are your thing, this will hit the mark like a sniper’s bullet.

The Painkiller is playing at the 30 April. You can book tickets through us here.

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