Compile a list of the characters an actor really doesn't want in his head when his waking hours are over and he is grabbing some shut-eye, and Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov would be pretty near the top.

Unfortunately for Adam Best, nocturnal visits from the murderer at the heart of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime And Punishment are an occupational hazard: the 30-year-old actor from County Down is due to spend the next three months playing him on stage.

"I had my first Raskolnikov dream the other night," he says as he munches crisps in the café of the Citizens Theatre during a break in rehearsals. "From what I remember, I was putting Pritt Stick on the head of a bald guy and being a bit belligerent about it."

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Best plays Raskolnikov in an ambitious new stage adaptation which receives its world premiere at the Citz this week. Directed by Dominic Hill, the theatre's artistic director, it has a script by Chris Hannan and a set designed by Colin Richmond.

The final member of the production team is Macedonian composer Nikola Kodjabashia, who has scored the play as well as creating what Best calls a "soundscape".

Crime And Punishment is a co-production with Liverpool's Everyman Playhouse and Edinburgh's Lyceum Theatre, a fact which adds much-needed financial muscle to the enterprise and gives Best and his fellow cast members an equally welcome luxury - extensive rehearsal time. "I've been in productions where you get three weeks and you're up on stage," he says. "We couldn't have done that here."

After Glasgow, the production will settle down for extensive runs in both Liverpool and Edinburgh, through October and into November. The investment is merited: despite its fame, Crime And Punishment has only rarely been adapted for the stage.

Hill, Hannan and Richmond last collaborated on award-winning 2010 production The Three Musketeers And The Princess Of Spain, based (loosely) on Alexandre Dumas's famous D'Artagnan romances. Whereas that was a family-friendly spectacle, however, this is a work edged in far darker hues.

If you're not familiar with Dostoyevsky's 1866 novel, it turns on the tale of a penniless former student - Raskolnikov - who murders a St Petersburg pawnbroker because he feels the normal codes of morality don't apply to him. He then despatches her half-sister because she arrives home and discovers him with the body. Afterwards he wanders the city, transmitting his guilt by his actions even though he's not immediately suspected of the crime. Conflicted, feverish and half-mad, he is eventually caught. Society takes its retribution by sending him to prison in Siberia, a fate which befell Dostoyevsky himself in 1849.

Hannan has called the novel "a crime thriller plus a novel of ideas … a whodunit meets Karl Marx and Jesus Christ", while Hill sees its adaptation for the stage as part of his ongoing mission to present, in his words, "classic work retold for contemporary audiences in exciting and unique ways".

So what will we get from this new adaptation? Best won't divulge too much about the staging - "because the action happens in so many places, it's all suggested very simply," he says, equally simply - and a sneaky look at the set doesn't reveal much either. But the presence of two movement directors (Benedicte Seierup and Lucien MacDougall) hint at a physically dynamic performance.

However, one innovation Best will talk about is the way Hannan has found to portray the inner workings of Raskolnikov's mind, which takes up a considerable portion of the novel.

"There are sections in the play which are soliloquies delivered to the audience by a chorus," he says. "So at some points they serve as Raskolnikov's internal monologue.

"It's a chance for the audience to get into his mind a little bit more because it's very difficult - or nearly impossible - for them to read everything that's going on.

"So he'll come out and say, 'This is what's going on in my head at the moment'. That's the stuff in the book that isn't dialogue, the bits between the lines."

Hannan has also simplified and condensed the storylines of peripheral characters such as Raskolnikov's sister, Avdotya, and her suitor, Svidrigailov. "There are elements of the stories that you couldn't possibly go into in the depth Dostoyevsky does in the novel, or it would be like the Mahabharata - an eight-hour play," says Best. "So one or two characters' stories have been streamlined considerably. But it doesn't have a negative impact."

Best may be familiar to television audiences from parts in Waking The Dead and from his two-year stint as Matt Parker in hospital drama Holby City. But since leaving that show in 2007, he has turned increasingly to theatre.

"I think if you ask most actors, they want to work first and foremost," he admits. "But I love theatre. I love the rehearsal process and the immediacy of the performance, the people there in front of you. And to be honest, that was what attracted me to acting in the first place."

Best appeared most recently in another adaptation by a Scottish playwright of a 19th-century classic - Public Enemy, David Harrower's take on Henrik Ibsen's play The Enemy Of The People. It finished its run at London's Young Vic Theatre in June. Prior to that he appeared in the West End in a production of The Woman In Black. In 2011, meanwhile, he appeared in an Actors Touring Company production of The Golden Dragon at the Traverse, then under the artistic direction of Dominic Hill.

"I'd met Dominic through that, so maybe the fact that he'd seen me in something helped me. But it was quite a long process. I had three auditions, which I can understand, because it's a juicy part and they wanted to feel they got it right."

At that point, Best hadn't read Crime And Punishment. When he learned he had an audition for what would be his first lead role, he borrowed a copy of the novel from his local library. "Then I realised I'd be wasting my time trying to get through it ahead of a meeting in two days' time, so I stuck to the script. When I got offered the part I had a few weeks spare so the first thing I did was go through the novel. I suppose because I already had an investment in it, I didn't find it a difficult read."

Downstairs in the rehearsal room, he has his copy, much referenced and heavily underlined. "Where something would be a page in the script, there's five or ten pages in the book. I suppose for every character you're looking for more background and because this is based on a novel there's something you can go back to," he says.

And what a novel. Violent, introspective, morally detached, spiritually confused and psychologically fragile - not for nothing is Raskolnikov regarded as one of literature's most troubled and intriguing creations. Scratch around and you'll find flavours of him in everything from Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle to Jonathan Rhys Meyer's character in Woody Allen's Match Point. Dominic Hill's production keeps the time and the place of the original, notionally at least, though as the director has suggested this is a Crime And Punishment whose themes can breathe as easily in the 21st century as in the 19th. But while it does have a bald man - Best has shaved his head specially for the role - Pritt Stick does not feature.

Crime And Punishment is at the Citizens Theatre from September 5-28, Liverpool Playhouse from October 1-19, and Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum from October 22-November 9