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28 October 2014

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A Fiennes first night - 14.01.03
Ralph Fiennes
Fiennes plays Carl Gustav Jung, protégée and eventually rival to Sigmund Freud
spacer The must-see Ralph Fiennes links up with the in-demand playwright Christopher Hampton in The Talking Cure. Our critic Mark Shenton was at the first night...

First night: Alan Davies in Auntie and Me

Shows you shouldn't miss!

Hot tickets: at the National Theatre


dotThe Talking Cure has less than a month to run now that it has finally opened to the press after its original opening night (scheduled for mid-December) was cancelled when one member of the cast fell ill (and sadly died a week later)

dotSo not only do you stand little chance of seeing it unless you already have a ticket, but you also don't have much time to do so if you want to try for one of the handful of day seats that are held back for sale on the day of the performance itself - or queue for a rare return
(it closes on 5 February)

dotRalph's kid brother, Joseph, meanwhile comes to the National next month to star in Love's Labour's Lost for director Trevor Nunn's final production as artistic director - read more in our 2003 highlights


National Theatre
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The Talking Cure (National Theatre, Cottesloe)

The presence of Ralph Fiennes in the National's smallest theatre, the Cottesloe, has ensured a sell-out for The Talking Cure.

But the sheer folly of putting this play into the Cottesloe's space is magnified by a staging that would sit far more comfortably in the larger Lyttelton: Tim Hatley's set takes in the entire length of the theatre rather than its width, and then plays out its five different locales on three tiers and a moving staircase.

Given the demand for tickets (thanks to Fiennes), it would also have made more commercial and democratic sense to allow more people to see it in a larger theatre, and one moreover where there would have been a wider range of ticket prices available - not the £27 here for all but some side or restricted view seats.


The Talking Cure poster
Debate and dreams about psychiatric treatment underpin The Talking Cure

It is, however, certainly worth whatever effort it takes to see the fine Fiennes in any role he plays; and he doesn't disappoint here.

Ralph plays Carl Gustav Jung, protégée and eventually rival to Freud and his theories that have formed the basis of modern psychiatry.

Christopher Hampton's play seeks to present a theatrical picture of the 'talking cure' treatment that they pioneered, as well as the impact of the work on their personal lives and the professional conflicts that arose between them.


As played by Fiennes with watchful unease, Jung is a man being torn apart by emotions he is trying to keep in check as he finds himself falling in love with the first patient he attempts to treat.

As that patient, another film actress Jodhi May returns to the stage to chart an amazing progress from the nervous intensity of madness to the more subtle erotic claims she makes on her doctor.

While Hampton's play is densely loaded with debate and dreams, facts and information, it would probably work better as a screenplay than a play.

There are too many scenes (27 in all), stretched across five different locations and along a time span of nine years. And Howard Davies's mammoth production threatens to dwarf both play and its players.

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