Faithfull back in West End for 'Beat' premiere

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The Independent Culture

When Marianne Faithfull played Ophelia in Hamlet 35 years ago, she injected heroin to help her through the mad scenes.

But the Sixties' icon insisted yesterday that she would need nothing but her acting talent to play the devil when she appears on the London stage next month for the first time in more than three decades. She is to play Pegleg, the satanic character in the English premiere of The Black Rider at the Barbican, a collaboration between William Burroughs, the late "Beat" writer - who apparently named its hero, Wilhelm, after himself - Tom Waits, the musician, and Robert Wilson, the theatre director.

Faithfull, admitting that it would be a "really bad idea" to take anything to assist her performance, said yesterday: "I learned that a long time ago. I don't actually need it. There are very, very few people that it can help."

Although Faithfull, 57, remembers all the lines from the 1969 performance of Hamlet, which she starred in alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins and Nicol Williamson, she could not remember that much about the production. "[The heroin] cut me off from the other actors," she said.

Five years earlier, in 1964, Faithfull had begun a successful career as a pop singer, recording the original version of the Rolling Stones' single "As Time Goes By". She became Mick Jagger's girlfriend and famously was present when the police staged a drugs raid on the Rolling Stones' frontman.

She is preparing for her new role by re-reading Naked Lunch, one of the most famous works of Burroughs, whom she was "over-awed" to meet in London in the 1960s and later got to know through Allen Ginsberg, the poet.

She promised to do her best in the part to honour Burroughs because she was so "very lucky" to have known him. But she admitted there were few acting roles for which she would be prepared to make this "sacrifice". "The money is not so good as it is in rock'n'roll."

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