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Previewed 22 April 2004, Opened 28 April 2004, Closed 22 May 2004 at the Duchess Theatre in London
The European Premiere Bruce Graham's new play Coyote on a Fence in London starring Ben Cross and Alex Ferns.
On death row in the southern US is John Brennan, an educated yet arrogant writer whose crime could be viewed as doing society a 'favour'. Brennan uses his skills and intelligence to actively campaign against capital punishment. He is also responsible for editing the prison newspaper, The Death Row Advocate, and in particular, penning the prisoners' obituaries. After his previous neighbour is executed, Bobby Alvin Reyburn takes his place in the cell next to Brennan. Reyburn, a deeply disturbed young man, is a member of the Aryan nation and the perpetrator of an horrific mass racist murder. Illiterate, yet strangely appealing, Reyburn is ready to die and longs to be in heaven where he believes he will be rewarded for carrying out 'God's work'. Despite the gulf between the two men, an understanding develops between them; and as each awaits their fate, one evokes sympathy and the other derision.
In a modern day America where the President has been responsible as Governor for more state executions than any other, this compelling drama examines issues surrounding justice and revenge, and explores one vital question: Can one be innocent though proven guilty?
The cast for Coyote on a Fence in London features Ben Cross and Alex Ferns. The production is directed by Sarah Esdaile with designs by Matt Atwood, lighting by Aideen Malone and sound by Simon Slater. This production comes into Lonodn's West End following a season at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.
"As an objection to state-sanctioned murder, the play burns with authentic passion. But Graham seems so affected by Beathard that in his eagerness not to demonise him, he has turned him into a saint... Sarah Esdaile's lucid production is well acted by Ben Cross... Alex Ferns, best known as the villainous Trevor Morgan in EastEnders, displays all the complexity that role never allowed him. With his goofy expression, milky sightless eye and loping gait, tattoos swarming up his pale arms, he is loathsome, manically idiotic and yet somehow perversely likeable, so that we glimpse the man he might have been, had his worldview not been warped by his violent past. You wouldn't want to be his pen pal; but he's infinitely more interesting than Graham's sanitised hero." The Times
"The American playwright Bruce Graham achieves something truly remarkable in this gripping death-row drama. He presents us with a character who initially seems to be entirely without redeeming qualities and somehow makes you sympathise with him. Though occasionally clumsy in its exposition, this is a piece that avoids most of the cliches of its genre, and genuinely sets you thinking about whether there is any justification for capital punishment for even the vilest crimes. Not the least of its qualities is that Graham's tone is far from preachy... A play of rare power, compassion and insight." The Daily Telegraph
Bruce Graham was inspired to write Coyote on a Fence by a wire service story in the Philadelphia Inquirer concerning Death Row prisoner James Beathard - Beathard published a Death Row newspaper at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville. 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.
Coyote on a Fence in London at the Duchess Theatre previewed from 22 April 2004, opened on 28 April 2004 and closed on 22 May 2004.