Bill Paterson (pictured) has just been confirmed this afternoon to replace James Hazeldine, playing Sigmund Freud to Ralph Fiennes' Carl Jung in the world premiere of Christopher Hampton's The Talking Cure at the NT Cottesloe. Paterson's first performance will be this Saturday 14 December 2002.

The National announced this morning that Hazeldine, hospitalised yesterday, was forced to withdraw suddenly because of ill health and was unable to continue the limited run to 5 February 2003. As a result tomorrow night's press night, as well as Saturday afternoon's matinee has been cancelled. Last night, the part of Freud was read by fellow cast member Dominic Rowan who also plays Otto Gross. ("Fortunately, the two characters are never on stage together," a relieved NT spokeswoman told Rowan will do the same this evening.

Theatregoers who have booked for either of the cancelled performances are advised to phone the National box office (020 7452 3000) for ticket exchanges or refunds. New press nights have not yet been scheduled. These will depend on the recast and are likely to be staggered as the majority of the run to 5 February 2003 has long sold out on the strength of Fiennes' name.

The Talking Cure deals with the early years of Jung (Fiennes) and his decision to experiment, using Freud's controversial new method of psycho-analysis, with a young Russian patient, Sabine Spielrein. The success of the experiment and the blossoming of his relationship with Sabine (Jodhi May) inaugurates, haunts and ultimately poisons Jung's relationship with Freud (Paterson).

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. In April 2003, following his stint at the National, the actor will 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.

Paterson's stage credits include Death and the Maiden (Royal Court/West End), Ivanov (Almeida) and Marriage Play (National), while on screen he's appeared in The Crow Road, Traffik, Comfort and Joy, The Killing Fields and Truly, Madly, Deeply. Also in the cast of The Talking Cure are Nancy Carroll and Valerie Spelman.

The production is directed by Howard Davies and designed by Tim Hatley, with costumes by Jenny Beaven, lighting by Peter Mumford, music by Dominic Muldowney and sound by Christopher Shutt. In addition to Fiennes and Rowan, the cast also includes Jodhi May, Nancy Carroll and Valerie Spelman.

- by Terri Paddock