Ralph Fiennes is to direct and star in a solo theatre adaptation of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets that will tour the UK this summer.
A co-production by Theatre Royal Bath and the Royal & Derngate in Northampton, Four Quartets will be staged first at those venues in May and June, then visit Oxford Playhouse and Cambridge Arts Theatre and other destinations yet to be announced.
Fiennes, who recently played archaeologist Basil Brown in the Bafta-nominated Sutton Hoo drama The Dig, was last on stage in Beat the Devil at the Bridge theatre, London, in 2020. He portrayed the playwright David Hare in a monologue detailing Hare’s experience of contracting coronavirus and the government’s response to the pandemic.
Four Quartets comprises Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages and Little Gidding, published together in 1943. The first of the four poems was inspired by lines that were cut from the Nobel laureate’s 1935 verse drama Murder in the Cathedral. The quartet ranges across themes of time, nature and the elements, faith and spirituality, war and mortality. Eliot is believed to have drawn inspiration for the quartet from his relationship with the scholar Emily Hale. His love letters to Hale had remained hidden, on the poet and her wishes, for 50 years after Hale’s death in 1969. They were made public in 2020 at a library on the campus of Princeton University.
Fiennes’s production will be designed by Hildegard Bechtler with lighting by Tim Lutkin and sound by Christopher Shutt.
In 2019, the American choreographer Pam Tanowitz’s stage version of Four Quartets had its UK premiere at London’s Barbican. It was the first time the TS Eliot estate had granted permission for the poet’s last great work to be used in a dance production.