by Heather Hodson
At 24 and 25, Joseph Fiennes and Victoria Hamilton are the faces of tomorrow's theatre. They don't know it yet, or if they do, they're being polite (Victoria: "I was round at Joe's the other day looking at the RSC programme, and when we read, 'Two of the most exciting actors of their generation,' we nearly spilled our coffee.") But everyone you talk to says so, and that includes three RSC directors and Bernardo Bertolucci (who directs Joe in his forthcoming film Stealing Beauty, and says he is 'really extraordinary', so there you are.
Both made mincemeat of their first major roles. Hamilton caused such a stir in Peter Hall's West End production of The Master Builder that she was branded 'a genius' (Hall's words). Fiennes has knocked up an impressive list of credits that includes Belyaev in A Month In The Country (opposite Helen Mirren) and a high-camp Lacenaire in Simon Callow's otherwise disastrous Les Enfants du Paradis. But it was his momentous portrayal of Christ in last year's production of Dennis Potter's Son Of Man that marked his arrival.
In private, the two are chalk and cheese, she self-deprecating through and through (father an advertising agent, mother a teacher, home Guildford); he self-assured and charming, whose family life brings to mind upper-class gypsies (the Fiennes spent their childhood "moving maybe fourteen times"). But in public they shimmer, which makes all the fuss about their forthcoming Troilus and Cressida - in Stratford - understandable. It will not be the first time they play opposite each other - they are currently appearing in As You Like It. But Troilus is a sexy play - "Romeo and Juliet" with the clap," says director Ian Judge - so the on-stage heat should be fierce (Judge says he feels "like a chemist, mixing blue and green liquor and watching it blow up"). The last time there was this much hype, funnily enough, was when Joe's eldest brother Ralph took the lead. But Joe, we learn, is the bigger-sized actor. "I was in a rehearsal room with Adrian Nobel," Judge says, "and after Joe had done his piece, I told Adrian, 'I know you've worked with the brother, but this one's the star.'".
Troilus and Cressida opens on July 24, 1996. Stealing Beauty opens on August 23, 1996.