“Act my age – not a chance,” said Sir Derek Jacobi, who at 77 wasn’t expecting to play Romeo’s swashbuckling pal Mercutio in Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET. Kenneth Branagh had other ideas. Thirty years after he first directed the Bard’s tragic romance, Sir Kenneth wanted to revisit a ‘more mature Mercutio’ so he and co-director Rob Ashford cast the distinguished thesp as more of a ‘fatherly figure’ in the latest revival as part of Plays At The Garrick season. Sir Derek wasn’t fazed about the fighting scenes. “I’ve smashed a few buckles in my time,” he said. If he can survive sword fighting Peter O’Toole in HAMLET he can survive anything he added.
For a large proportion of his 77 years, Sir Derek has been associated with Shakespeare. A quick kaleidoscope of his Bard times includes appearing as Chorus in Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 film HENRY V, winning the Tony in 1984 for MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and playing the main antagonist Malvolio in TWELFTH NIGHT at Wyndham’s Theatre seven years ago, winning his second Olivier Award in the process. He also collected an Emmy Award in 2001 for his guest appearance in the TV sitcom FRASIER, mocking his Shakespearian background as the worst actor in the world, the hammy, loud and untalented Jackson Hedley.
Sir Derek signed this sketch of him as Malvolio and Mercutio this week at the Garrick stage door.