Hamlet to stand trial on West End stage charged with murder of Polonius

Hamlet will go on trial this weekend for murder, treason and regicide before an appeal court judge on a stage in the West End of London.

The aim of cross-examining Shakespeare’s most famous character about the fatal stabbing of Polonius is to deliver a fundraising performance for schools on the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death.

The cast combines prominent lawyers with leading actors, including the Royal Shakespeare Company’s John Heffernan as Hamlet, Meera Syal as Gertrude and Tom Conti as Claudius.

The stand-up comedian Lee Mack takes the part of the Player King and the comedian and actor Hugh Dennis is the jury foreman, whose role is to return the verdict given by the entire audience.

Lady Justice Hallett, a court of appeal judge, will conduct the trial and four QCs, John Kelsey-Fry, Jonathan Laidlaw, Shaheed Fatima and Ian Winter, will lead the interrogation, demonstrating the similarity in skills required onstage and in the courtroom.

Money raised by the Sunday night performance at Wyndham’s theatre will be donated to the Shakespeare Schools festival.

In the play, the Prince of Denmark is being held in custody contemplating a life behind bars. Kelsey-Fry, a sought-after defence silk, will argue for Hamlet’s acquittal.

The show follows a successful mock trial of Macbeth that was staged last year and returned a surprise verdict of not guilty on the Scottish usurper.

Hallett said mock trial projects stimulated an interest in the law and helped young students develop their talents. “I relish the opportunity to combine my two loves of the law and the theatre on the West End stage and will ensure Hamlet gets a fair trial,” she said.

Syal, star of the BBC’s The Kumars at No 42 and Goodness Gracious Me, said she was “very proud to be supporting the Shakespeare Schools Foundation although a little nervous about the cross-examination”.

The Trial of Hamlet, 27 November, Wyndham’s theatre, London