British film star Ralph Fiennes (pictured) will return to the London stage, and to the National Theatre, this winter to play Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung in a new drama by Christopher Hampton. The Talking Cure, directed by Howard Davies and designed by Tim Hatley, will receive its world premiere at the NT's Cottesloe Theatre on 12 December 2002 (previews from 6 December).

The Talking Cure will explore Jung's relationship with his mentor Sigmund Freud and how Freud's treatment methods involving free association and dream analysis influenced Jung's own theories and relationships with patients, including, here, one distressed young woman.

Jung (1875-1961) was a long-time admirer of Freud who, 19 years his senior, viewed the younger man as his heir-apparent in the field of psychoanalysis. When the two first met, they supposedly talked for 13 hours straight. Between 1907 and 1913, they were close friends and collaborators, but then their relationship broke down as Jung felt increasingly that Freud's theories were too restrictive and Freud dismissed Jung's ideas as unscientific. Amongst Jung's research, which profoundly influenced modern psychology, were theories about the structure of inner fantasies and the lifelong "process of individuation" by which people become their unique selves.

Fiennes was last seen on the London stage in 2000 when he led the Almeida's celebrated Shakespeare double bill - Coriolanus and Richard II - at the Gainsborough Studios in Shoreditch. Prior to that, his 1995 title turn in a Hackney-based Hamlet, again for the Almeida, won him a Tony and a New York Drama Desk Best Actor Award when it transferred to Broadway.

Fiennes' award-winning film work includes Schindler's List, The End of the Affair, Onegin, The English Patient, Quiz Show, Oscar and Lucinda and Strange Days. Amongst his other theatre credits are, for the National, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Father and Sons and Ting Tang Mine, and for the RSC, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Troilus and Cressida and Love's Labour Lost. In 2003, the actor is due to return to the Royal Shakespeare Company, which he first joined in 1988, to take the title role in Ibsen's Brand, as one of the final productions by outgoing artistic director Adrian Noble.

Christopher Hampton is one of the UK's most successful playwrights. His original stage work includes Tales from Hollywood, Total Eclipse, The Philanthropist, Savages and Treats while amongst his many hit adaptations are Art, The Unexpected Man, Enemy of the People and Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

Director Howard Davies - whose acclaimed revival of Private Lives starring Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan recently won three Tonys on Broadway - has the additional distinction of having won the Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Director for the past two years running, this year for Private Lives and previously for All My Sons at the National. This September, he will also be directing the world premiere of David Hare's The Breath of Life, starring Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench.

- by Terri Paddock