Goodness Gracious Me's Nina Wadia and Kulvinder Ghir will join Zubin Varla in the world premiere of the Royal Shakespeare Company's long-planned stage adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Booker Prize-winning novel Midnight's Children. Members of the cast and creative team today (21 October 2002) attended a UK press launch for the production - co-produced with two American universities - at London's Barbican Centre where it will play for a limited five-week season, from 18 January to 23 February 2003, before transferring to Michigan and New York (See News, 6 Sep 2002).

Published in 1981, Rushdie's second novel is a complex allegory combining three main tales: the turbulent history of 20th-century India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; the saga of a Muslim family; and the story of one man, Saleem Sinai, whose telepathic powers allow him to communicate with other children born at the stroke of midnight on 15 August 1947.

The 20-strong, mainly British-Asian cast is led by Zubin Varla (as Saleem), whose previous stage credits include, for the RSC, Romeo and Juliet, Robert Zucco, The Tempest and, in the West End, Jesus Christ Superstar. Wadia and Ghir, best known for the television sketch show which pokes gentle fun at British-Asian culture, play Padma and Aadam. They're joined by Shaheen Khan, Kish Sharma, Simon Nagra and Antony Zaki.

Midnight's Children is adapted for the stage by Rushdie along with Simon Reade and Tim Supple, who also directs. Supple's previous projects included the acclaimed 1998 adaptation of Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories. The new production is designed by Melly Still, with lighting by Tina McHugh and sound and video by John A Leonard.

The novel of Midnight's Children, which was awarded the "Booker of Bookers" in 1993, firmly established Rushdie's reputation as one of Britain's leading contemporary authors. His other books have included Shame, The Moor's Last Sigh, East/West, The Ground Beneath Her Feet and, most infamously, 1989's The Satanic Verses that so angered Muslims that Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini declared a "fatwah" against Rushdie.

The stage adaptation of Midnight's Children will mark the RSC's first production back at the Barbican since the company's controversial withdrawal from its residency there in May 2002. Following London, the production will play at the University of Michigan's Power Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Columbia University's Apollo Theatre in New York City (21-30 March 2003).

- by Terri Paddock