I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
My debut poetry pamphlet is available at www.wildpressedbooks.com/david-keyworth.html
BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated actor Ralph Fiennes is taking one of the twentieth century's greatest poetic works on tour with him. He is directing and starring in a new stage adaption of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets.
Ralph Fiennes in Four Quartets. Photo: Matt Humphrey.
Ironically, it was an interruption to Eliot's work for the stage, because of World War II, which prompted him to re-focus on poetry.
Four Quartets is divided into four poems: Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages and Little Gidding. They were published together in 1943. A meditation on time and how we experience it threads through the quartets. Some of the most evocative lines ruminate on moments of intense experience:z,p."But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat, The moment in the draughty church at smokefall Be remembered"
London features heavily in Eliot's ground-breaking poem The Waste Land (1922) and some lines in Four Quartets cut back to the 'unreal city' where Eliot worked as both a bank clerk and a publisher, for Faber & Faber.z,p."Or as when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence."
Four Quartets most famous line is perhaps "Humankind cannot bear very much reality" (Burnt Norton).
East Coker is explicitly autobiographical – in that it refers to the Somerset village from which Eliot's ancestors emigrated to America. Eliot made the reverse journey in his own life, back to England. His ashes are interred at St Michael and All Angels' Church, East Coker, A wall plaque in the church commemorates him with lines from the poem: "In my beginning is my end. In my end is my beginning."
In tune with its musical title, Four Quartets can be enjoyed as much for its rhythm as for its meaning and imagery - especially when read by a first-rate actor.
Fiennes is indeed in good company in terms of actors who have previously given voice to the poems. Alec Guinness (1914–2000) recorded the Four Quartets for a Decca vinyl LP, released in 1975.
Ralph Fiennes in Four Quartets. Photo: Matt Humphrey
Elsewhere, Eliot's work gained exposure to a whole new audience when Andrew Lloyd Webber used Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939) for Cats. The forty-year-old musical has gone on to countless performances on Broadway, London's West End and beyond.
Fiennes was recently seen, opposite Sophie Okonedo, in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. The production reached a global cinema audience via the National Theatre Live series.
His portrayal of a Nazi war criminal in Stephen Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), won Fiennes a BAFTA and also an Academy Award nomination. He was also Oscar-nominated for his performance in Anthony Minghella's The English Patient (1996), as well as receiving BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations.
He played Voldemort in Harry Potter and will be seen again as M in No Time To Die – the James Bond film originally due to be released in 2020.