Adrien Brody to make London stage debut as man who spent 22 years on death row

<span>‘I have been searching for the right material and this was so clearly the one’ … Adrien Brody.</span><span>Photograph: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Academy Museum of Motion Pictures</span>
‘I have been searching for the right material and this was so clearly the one’ … Adrien Brody.Photograph: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Adrien Brody, the Oscar-winning star of The Pianist, is to make his London stage debut at the 251-seat Donmar. The New York actor will appear in The Fear of 13, the story of Nick Yarris who spent 22 years on death row before being exonerated.

Brody told the Guardian: “I love the theatre and although I have not been on the stage in many years I have been searching for the right material and this was so clearly the one.”

Opening in October, the play is based on a 2015 documentary by British film-maker David Sington. Adapted by Lindsey Ferrentino, author of Ugly Lies the Bone, it tells the true story of a man who, in 1982, was wrongly convicted of the murder, rape and abduction of Linda Mae Craig, a Delaware shop assistant. After a DNA test cleared him of involvement, Yarris was released in 2004.

“This is a story steeped in truth, that exposes systematic injustice and apathy through hope and humanity,” said Brody. “Lindsey Ferrentino’s writing is just so rich and lovely. It feels equally artistic and socially relevant. It’s a remarkable thing for one who has experienced such tragic loss [as Yarris] to have the eloquence and openness to share their life experiences in a way that is not only profoundly moving but also awakens you to the cruel circumstances many face while at the mercy of the judicial and penal systems.”

The play is directed by Justin Martin, whose previous work includes Prima Facie, starring Jodie Comer, and Stranger Things: The First Shadow. “Justin is a director with sensitivity and vision so the chance to collaborate with him and Lindsey has drawn me back to the stage,” said Brody, who recently appeared in Succession, as an investor in the Logan family business, and in Peaky Blinders, as an Italian-American mobster.

He added: “The theatre offers a level of immersion that’s difficult to find on set, given the technical nature of recording on film, so I’m very excited to explore the character’s journey in continuity – and performing live in front of an audience is a whole different rush.”

The premiere is part of Tim Sheader’s debut season as artistic director. He arrives at the Donmar from the 1,240-seat Regent’s Park Open Air theatre, where his hits included a celebrated revival of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Announcing four productions, Sheader said he was delighted to be working on a scale where “connecting with artists” was central: “Throughout all these shows you’ll find the Donmar’s DNA – excellent productions, starring outstanding actors, all experienced up close in our intimate theatre.”

In December, Sheader will direct the UK premiere of Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. Based on a racy section of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the Moscow-set musical was nominated for 12 Tony awards on its original New York run. “I’m looking forward to directing a party-fuelled Broadway musical that has never been seen this side of the pond,” said Sheader.

In the spring, Celia Imrie and Tamsin Greig will star in Backstroke, as mother and daughter, Beth and Bo. Written and directed by Anna Mackmin, it is a role-reversal drama about a family readjusting after the once irrepressible Beth goes into hospital following a stroke.

Samira Wiley, the Emmy-award winning star of Orange Is the New Black and The Handmaid’s Tale, will star in Intimate Apparel next summer. Having appeared at the National Theatre in Blues for an Alabama Sky, she will be reunited with director Lynette Linton as she heads the cast in Lynn Nottage’s 2003 play about a New York seamstress who creates exquisite lingerie and dreams of opening a beauty parlour.