Things get complicated for actor Ralph Fiennes beginning Sept. 9. Three days ago, on Sept. 6, he began performances in the lead role in the Almeida Theatre Company production of Richard II at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Now, he will take on a second, equally demanding Shakepearean role, as Coriolanus. The British actor will alternate in the two parts from now until Oct. 1.
Coriolanus will play 12 shows, Sept. 9, 10, 14-16, 21-23, and 28 30. Richard II, meanwhile, will continue Sept. 12-13, 16-17, 19-20, 23-24, 26-27, 30 and Oct. 1.
Fiennes' long-time collaborator, Jonathan Kent, will direct both productions. Kent guided Fiennes through Hamlet, which was seen on Broadway several seasons back. Kent has also piloted Medea, Phedre and Britannicus, all of which featured Diana Rigg and travelled to these shores.
Fiennes' two assignments will take him to opposite sides of the dramatic spectrum. Coriolanus is a willful and wildly successful military leader, so headstrong and disdainful of the masses, that he is banished from the Rome that once cheered him. Richard II, meanwhile, is a foppish and ineffectual leader who acquires nobility only after he is unseated.
The last major Coriolanus to grace the New York stage was at the Public Theater in the late '80s. Christopher Walken played the title role, while Irene Worth was his ambitious mother, Volumia. A Public Theater mounting from the '70s featured Morgan Freeman and Gloria Foster. Fiennes won a Tony for his Hamlet. Of late, he has been seen more frequently on film, including the recent "The End of the Affair." Other films of note include "Quiz Show," "Schindler's List" and "The English Patient."
The cast will feature Barbara Jefford as Volumnia and the Duchess of York; Linus Roache as Bolingbroke and Aufidis; Oliver Ford Davies as the Duke of York and Menenius; Emilia Fox as Queen Isabel and Virgilia; Robert Swann as Northumberland; and David Burke as John of Gaunt and Cominius.
A "BAMdialogue" will take place following the Sept. 12, 7:30 PM performance, featuring Fiennes, Roache and Kent.
--By Robert Simonson