Alex Ferns and Ben Cross will star in the European premiere of Bruce Graham’s Coyote on a Fence. The American death-row drama will transfer to the West End’s Duchess Theatre for a limited run from 28 April 2004 (previews from 22 April), following initial dates from 25 March to 10 April at Manchester’s Royal Exchange (See News, 20 Jan 2004).

Set on death row in a jail in the southern US, Coyote on a Fence revolves around two prisoner. John Brennan is an educated yet arrogant writer, editor of the prison newspaper Death Row Advocate, whose crime could be viewed as doing society a ‘favour’. In the cell next to him, Bobby Alvin Reyburn, a deeply disturbed young man, is a member of the Aryan nation and the perpetrator of an horrific mass racist murder.

Bruce Graham was inspired to write the play following a wire service story about James Beathard, who was on death row at the Texas State Penitentiary. Graham struck up a two-year correspondence with Beathard. Before he was executed for murder in December 1999, Beathard read the script and wrote Graham an approving note, saying “You got rave reviews.” Following his death, Beathard was exonerated.

Ben Cross, who plays the Beathard-inspired Brennan, is best known internationally for films such Chariots of Fire. In 2002, he returned to the West End to star, alongside Alex Ferns, in Art. His much earlier London stage credits included The Caine Mutiny Court Marshall and Chicago. Ferns is best known to TV fans as Trevor from EastEnders. He was nominated for a Whatsonstage.com Award for his stage performance last year in Antony Sher’s I.D. at the Almeida Theatre.

Cross and Ferns are joined in the cast of by Eric Loren (as journalist Sam Fried) and Jo Martin as prison warder Shawna DuChamps. The European premiere production is directed by Sarah Esdaile and designed by Matt Atwood with lighting by Aideen Malone and sound by Simon Slater.

Coyote on a Fence received its world premiere at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park in 1998. The play is presented in the West End by Matthew Mitchell.

- by Terri Paddock