Arts Diary

THE EVER-enterprising Almeida Theatre, which presents Cate Blanchett next week in David Hare's Plenty, is already working on its next coup. Ralph Fiennes has been approached by Almeida's director Jonathan Kent to reunite the partnership that produced a triumphant Hamlet a few years ago. Fiennes is keen to star in a Shakespeare season, playing two roles. One will certainly be Richard II, a part the actor was born to play. The other role being considered is Coriolanus.

I caught sight of Fiennes down at Shepperton film studios, where shooting has begun on Neil Jordan's film of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair. Greene's classic tale of adulterous passions and Catholic repressions is a departure for Jordan, but a book that the Greene admirer has long wanted to film. Fiennes, who recently finished shooting the movie of Eugene Onegin, directed by his sister Martha, will star in The End of the Affair opposite Julianne Moore (right).

Miss Moore, who gives a delightfully comic performance as a scheming blackmailer in the new film of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband, was one of the stars of the film not to make it to the premiere of the movie on Monday. She probably had good reasons, but it was disappointing that Cate Blanchett also failed to turn up the day after winning a Best Actress Bafta. Pressure of work, ie daytime rehearsals for Plenty, was the last- minute reason apparently. There's an easy option, Cate. Turn up, give the crowds a thrill and the producers some publicity, enter the cinema, drop a curtsy, then leave through a side entrance and have an early night. You won't be the first star to do exactly that. Though in fact, the film was so entertaining you might have been tempted to stay.

Back to the Baftas, there was one memorable moment, at least for those of us fortunate enough to be seated next to Gwyneth Paltrow's table. When host Ross made his little joke, "Where would we be without an audience - starring in The Avengers probably", Miss Paltrow, after a gasp of astonishment, could not contain herself and collapsed in near-hysterics. The joke wasn't that funny - unless, of course, like Miss Paltrow, you had been wise enough to turn down a starring role in the flop.

Michael Kaiser, executive director of the Royal Opera House, had a typically neat, diplomatic turn of phrase when I asked him about the infamous "dropping" of the ballerina Viviana Durante by Bruce Sansom in a rehearsal, which led to a bout of bad relations between Miss Durante and the company. "He did not drop her," Mr Kaiser replied sternly, "He put her down with excessive energy."

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