A host of UK screen and stage names are now lining up to follow in the footsteps of their American peers by guest-starring in The Exonerated, the hit Off-Broadway drama about living on death row now receiving its London premiere in a 16-week run (to 11 June 2006) at Riverside Studios (See News, 3 Feb 2006).

This week, from tonight to Sunday (14 to 19 March), Rupert Graves (pictured) and Catherine Tate are appearing. They’ll be followed by the League of Gentleman’s Steve Pemberton (21 to 26 March), Charles Dance (28 March to 2 April) and, from 4 to 9 April, Geraldine James and, fresh from his West End musical turn in Guys and Dolls, Nigel Harman. New British members of the ensemble include Todd Boyce, Geff Francis, William Jay Marshall, Cecilia Noble (Yellowman, A Raisin in the Sun and Kerry Shale.

The London season at Riverside Studios opened on 24 February 2006 (previews from 21 February) with American screen stars Aidan Quinn, Stockard Channing and Delroy Lindo in the cast. Still due to make the transatlantic trip are Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek) and Kristin Davis Sex and the City. Sunny Jacobs, whose real-life experience on death row is depicted in the play, will return to play herself from 11 to 15 April.

Amongst the stars who appeared in The Exonerated’s Off-Broadway run, which finished in October 2002 after 608 performances, were: Gabriel Byrne, Richard Dreyfuss, Mia Farrow, Jeff Goldblum, Alanis Morissette, Bebe Neuwirth, Lynn Redgrave, Kyra Sedgwick, Ally Sheedy, Brooke Shields, Kathleen Turner, Mary J Blige, Robert Carradine and Debra Winger.

The Exonerated was written in 2001 by husband-and-wife team Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, based on interviews with 40 former death row prisoners. It explores the experiences of those wrongfully imprisoned for between two and 22 years.

The play was first performed in April 2002 by the Los Angeles-based Actors’ Gang, under the artistic directorship of Hollywood’s Tim Robbins, before transferring to New York. In January 2005, the stage drama was adapted for television and aired on the US’ Court TV channel, starring Quinn, Brian Dennehy, Danny Glover, Delroy Lindo, Susan Sarandon and David Brown Jr.

Meanwhile, also in west London, at Notting Hill’s Gate Theatre, Anna Calder-Marshall and Diana Hardcastle, both previously seen here in Tejas Verdes, will return to join Niall Buggy (Guys and Dolls, An Inspector Calls), Michael Byrne and Hugo Thurston in the upcoming retrospective of the work of Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter (See News, 9 Dec 2005).

Gate artistic director Thea Sharrock, with Claire Lovett, directs two of Pinter’s less rarely performed stage pieces - A Slight Ache (1959) and A Kind of Alaska (1982) – under the title In Celebration of Harold Pinter. Paul Wills designs.

In A Slight Ache, first seen at the Arts Theatre, Flora and Edward are chatting at the breakfast table when Edward’s eyes start to ache, a condition worsened by a mysterious matchseller who they proceed to interrogate. In A Kind of Alaska - another one-act three-hander, premiered at the National’s Cottesloe – a woman wakes up after 30 years in a coma; she’s now middle-aged but still thinks she’s 16.

- by Terri Paddock