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“I’m not someone who gets particularly nostalgic, but there is definitely a moment in your life where you look back with a different clarity,” he says.“This is one such moment, and doing Hamlet here feels like coming full circle.” Branagh is back working where it all began more than three decades ago with a new production of Hamlet, the play he headlined in his final year at RADA in October 1981.Those relationships add deeper layers and more nuance to the work.

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The man who has claim to being Britain’s greatest living actor-director has built up an extraordinary body of work on stage and screen by looking relentlessly forwards.

Sitting in a rehearsal room at RADA on Chenies Street in London, however, he is finding it hard not to be a little misty-eyed.

We all face a version of the dilemma.” So what has Branagh learned from previous encounters with Hamlet?

“Directing it now, I’m much more aware of the obstacles you face in creating a Shakespeare production.

“It’s about personality and theatricality, and the tools of politics and performance. Shakespeare just happened to write about it 500 years ago.” It is not hard to spot the modern-day political parallels Branagh is drawing. “I purposefully want the whole thing to be clean and lean,” he says.

“So the audience is invited to feel and concentrate with the characters, human to human.” Returning to the relevance of the play, Branagh says: “You direct Hamlet for the age you live in.Cinema audiences can currently see him in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and he has been working on a big screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.But the man who once said “my bones are in the theatre” is clearly revelling in returning to theatre work.The refurbished premises will provide the first on-site accommodation for students; there will also be a new library and enhanced archive.The space currently known as the Drill Hall will become a 250-seat public theatre, which will be named the Richard Attenborough Theatre. Branagh is a little dishevelled, maybe a touch tired from a day at the coalface, but the twinkle is never far away.“It means we are not coming at the production cold,” Branagh says.

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