Seven years on from Cyrano, Joseph Fiennes is back at Chichester Festival Theatre as another figure of legendary proportions.
But the purpose this time with the warrior TE Lawrence, as Joseph says, is to get to the man behind the myth in Ross by Terence Rattigan, and directed by Adrian Noble.
Chichester can seem massive, but at times you can get a lovely intimacy. I love having the audience on three sides, working on that kind of thrust stageJoseph Fiennes
And as Joseph says, if ever you feel confused by all that’s happening in the Middle East right now, catch this play for Rattigan’s beautifully-clear explanation of it all.
‘And I am going to come off the fence! I think it shows that we didn’t get it all right at the time. There were mistakes made…’
Joseph is delighted to be back at the CFT: ‘Cyrano was absolutely joyous and just right for this stage. Audiences loved the journey of the man behind the nose and the fallibility of him. From that production, I wanted to come back to Chichester straight away, and in my mind I already have! I can’t believe it is now seven years ago. But it seemed important to come back, partly to be part of all that (outgoing CFT artistic director) Jonathan (Church) has achieved here and to be part of his final season as we all launch him on to other great things!
‘But for me, also another big part of the draw was to be working with Adrian. He was there at the RSC when I was there, but we didn’t work together. I love his shows that I have seen before, and he has always been on my list of people I want to work with.
‘I have never done a Rattigan before, and this is a big company on a big stage. Chichester can seem massive, but at times you can get a lovely intimacy. I love having the audience on three sides, working on that kind of thrust stage.’
And Joseph is relishing a production which transports us all from England to Arabia with a play which is rarely done: ‘I think there have only been three notable productions. One was Alec Guinness at about the time of the film, and I believe Rattigan was writing a screenplay for a film, but was then beaten to it and so then concentrated on the play. And I think there was another production in the ’80s.
‘And yet we so often hear news about the Middle East, and you can’t escape all the troubles and conflicts that are going on.’
And that’s what makes this play so important.
‘Really, all those complications stem from this exact moment in time in the play, when Arabia was being divided up. And there is such clarity in the way that Rattigan shows it. It might be through the lens of a particular point of view, but Rattigan allows his audience to get a very clear handle on what was happening… and if anything it pokes fun at the British establishment.’
Chichester Festival Theatre