British film star Joseph Fiennes, younger brother of fellow actor Ralph, returns to the stage tonight for a limited run at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre. Fiennes plays the title role in Christopher Marlowe's classic, Edward II, which begins previews tonight before opening on 13 March and continuing until 31 March 2001.

Ironically, Fiennes is best known internationally for playing Marlowe's contemporary rival, William Shakespeare, in the 1998 blockbuster film, Shakespeare in Love. He opens on stage in Sheffield at the same time as his latest film - the World War II Russian battlefront epic, Enemy at the Gates, in which he co-stars with Jude Law - opens in UK cinemas.

Considered by many to be Marlowe's most accomplished play, Edward II, written in 1592, tells the epic story of the homosexual king who was defeated and eventually murdered by power-hungry barons. Over the course of the play, Marlowe traces the politics and passion of Edward's 20-year reign.

Although now most recognised for his film work, Fiennes has worked extensively on stage. In 1998, he starred in the Royal Court premiere of Nick Grosso's acclaimed Real Classy Affair, alongside Nick Moran (of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels fame). Fiennes' other stage credits include A Month in the Country (Albery Theatre), The Woman in Black (Fortune) and numerous RSC productions. In addition to the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love, Fiennes' other film credits include Elizabeth and Martha Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence.

Edward II is directed by Michael Grandage, who directed Marlowe's The Jew of Malta at the Almeida in 1999. Grandage has recently won critical acclaim and numerous awards, including several Oliviers, for his productions of Merrily We Roll Along and Passion Play at the Donmar Warehouse as well as the Sheffield Crucible/ Lyric Hammersmith co-production of As You Like It.

The Sheffield production is choreographed by Peter Darling and designed by Christopher Oram, with lighting by Tim Mitchell. Original music compositions are provided by Julian Phillips.

- by Terri Paddock