The first account of Kenneth Branagh’s life was his autobiography, Beginning, written at the age of twenty-eight. The second, marking its subject’s arrival at the ripe age of forty-five, is the work of a historian of the Kennedy presidency who has ventured outside his usual field to right what he sees as an injustice to the Shakespearian star. That is one way of labelling Branagh. The fact that I could equally have listed him as a film director, actor manager, fundraiser, playwright, screenwriter, premature autobiographer and lead player in a rock band called the Fishmongers suggests one thing that has fired Mark White to speed to his rescue.
That thing is the English disease: the impulse to slap down ambition and close ranks against any newcomer trying to join the club. It was fine for Branagh, fresh out of Rada, to achieve overnight fame in Julian Mitchell’s Another Country in 1982. Less than fine when he failed to