Ahead of his Oedipus at the National next autumn (See News, 12 Sep 2006), Ralph Fiennes (pictured) will return to the West End in the new year to star in the UK premiere of The God of Carnage, the new comedy by French playwright Yasmina Reza which is due to start performances at the Gielgud Theatre on 7 March 2008.

Reza is best known for her multi award-winning three-hander Art which, during its eight-year West End run to January 2003 (See News, 17 Sep 2002), featured a series of high-profile casts including Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Ken Stott, Henry Goodman, David Haig, Richard Griffiths, Frank Skinner, Jack Dee and the League of Gentlemen. Reza’s other plays include Life x 3 and The Unexpected Man, both of which also had West End runs.

The London production of The God of Carnage reunites for the first time the team behind Art - translator Christopher Hampton, director Matthew Warchus and producers David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers (who are also busy preparing the Broadway transfer of Equus with Daniel Radcliffe). . Speaking to the Daily Mail, Pugh said: “This is ten years after Art and for me, this is Yasmina at the top of her game again. It’s funnier than Art, although I couldn’t quite get my head around calling it The God of Carnage when it’s a comedy.”

In the new piece, Fiennes plays the lawyer father of a nine-year-old boy who has hit another child on the playground. The victim’s parents have invited Fiennes and his wife round to discuss the matter.

The comedy marks a change for the actor, who, particularly in terms of his stage work, is best known for serious drama and the classics. He was last seen on the London stage in 2004 leading a 100-strong cast in Deborah Warner’s epic staging of Julius Caesar at the Barbican. His other theatre credits include Brand, Coriolanus, Richard II and the so-called Hackney Hamlet, which transferred to Broadway, where he appeared last year in Faith Healer.

Fiennes’ many films include The Constant Gardener, The English Patient, Schindler’s List, The End of the Affair, Harry Potter, Quiz Show, Oscar and Lucinda and Strange Days.

Currently at the Gielgud Theatre (See News, 20 Aug 2007), Rupert Goold’s acclaimed production of Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood, finishes its limited ten weeks on 1 December 2007, and is followed by another Chichester Festival transfer, Jonathan Church and Philip Franks’ revival of the two-part adaptation of Charles Dickens’ The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, which runs for 66 performances only from 8 December 2007 (previews from 5 December) to 27 January 2008.

- by Terri Paddock