Were you aware that 1997 is the Year of the Fiennes? The screen career of former RSC lead Ralph Fiennes may have got off to an awkward start in Peter Kosminsky's bumpy screen version of Wuthering Heights, but it teamed him up with Juliette Binoche. She reappears as one of his co-stars in Anthony Minghella's luminous film of the Booker Prize-winning novel, The English Patient, which has made him into a solid gold screen star in America. It has already picked up the Golden Globe for Best Film and netted $35m so far, a spectacular sum for a two-and-a-half hour film with no special effects and a screenplay aimed at an audience which craves something other than cartoon emotions.
The film is even better than the ecstatic things you've heard about it - one reviewer announced that of the 6,000 films seen in a career of criticism, this was the best - and much of this is down to the intense, scalding passion of the on-screen relationship between Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas. Those of you who, like me, sat stupefied through Four Weddings and a Funeral wondering why on earth Hugh Grant ignored Scott Thomas and opted for Andie MacDowell, should rush to see this. Meanwhile, Fiennes has recently finished playing the lead in the film of another Booker Prize- winner, Peter Carey's magnificent Oscar and Lucinda.
"But this is a theatre column!" I hear you cry. Well, dedicated followers of Fiennes will know that the man playing the title role in Ivanov is none other than our Ralph. David Hare has translated Chekhov's rarely performed original and the director is Jonathan Kent. Hamlet, the previous Kent-Fiennes double-act, netted Fiennes a Tony award. By the end of this year, he's highly likely to have a few more items of sculpture on his mantelpiece. But who wants to see him on celluloid when you can catch him in the flesh?
EYE ON THE NEW Peter Gill, translator of the current RSC Cherry Orchard, is a very neglected talent both as a director and a writer. He once again takes on both jobs in his new play, Cardiff East, which has been described by Richard Eyre as a latter- day, urban Under Milk Wood.
In preview, Cottesloe, National Theatre, London SE1 (0171-928 2252)Reuse content