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Ralph Fiennes in Beat The Devil (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

First look: Ralph Fiennes’ Bridge Theatre debut in David Hare’s monologue Beat the Devil

Published 28 August 2020

Yesterday, Ralph Fiennes made his Bridge Theatre debut performing David Hare’s monologue Beat the Devil, a new play written as a response to the author’s experience of contracting coronavirus.

Directed by Nicholas Hytner, with designs by Bunny Christie, lighting by Jon Clark, sound by Gareth Fry and music by George Fenton, Beat the Devil plays in repertoire at the Bridge until 31 October 2020.

On the same day that the UK government finally made the first of two decisive interventions that led to a conspicuously late lockdown, David Hare contracted Covid-19. Nobody seemed to know much about it then, and many doctors are not altogether sure they know much more today. Suffering a pageant of apparently random symptoms, Hare recalls the delirium of his illness, which mix with fear, dream, honest medicine and dishonest politics to create a monologue – performed at The Bridge by Ralph Fiennes – of furious urgency and power.

In addition to Beat The Devil, eight of the actors (Monica Dolan, Tamsin Greig, Lesley Manville, Lucian Msamati, Maxine Peake, Rochenda Sandall, Kristin Scott Thomas and Imelda Staunton) from the series of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads which LTC made for BBC One, will reprise their performances on The Bridge stage this summer.

Three monologues – An Evening with an Immigrant, Quarter Life Crisis and Nine Lives – from Inua Ellams, Yolanda Mercy and Zodwa Nyoni will run alongside them, the first two played by their authors, the third by Lladel Bryant.  And to start, David Hare’s passionate Beat the Devil about his own experience with the virus and the politics of its handling performed by Ralph Fiennes.

The Bridge has re-opened with a reduced capacity of 250 seats and stringent safety measures.  Audiences were invited to book seats with the assurance that, of course, there will be automatic refunds for any performances that can’t go ahead.

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