All singing 'Trial by Jury' to take the stage at Royal Courts of Justice

There must be many critics who have considered it a trial to sit through certain performances. In May, they could find themselves sitting through a real one.

The Royal Courts of Justice are to open their doors to a musical production for the first time, as part of the Covent Garden Festival of opera and music. The imposing President's Court, usually host to less salubrious visitors, is to stage Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury.

The light opera, a cheeky observation of the Victorian judicial system, will feature actors as judges, jurors, lawyers and criminals singing from their normal positions in court. The audience will view the performance from the benches of the public gallery, which seat around 100. "The actors are loving it," said Debra Boraston, a spokeswoman for the festival. "They sing from the dock, as if you were in a real court. In fact it's all as if it were taking place in real life, except for the fact that it's singing."

Just as a serious crime graduates from magistrates' courts to Crown, the production has arrived via previous, smaller performances at nearby Bow Street magistrates' court.

"When I started with the festival in 1993, one of the main characteristics was finding unusual venues in which to put appropriate and imaginative productions, because obviously Covent Gardens theatres get booked up years in advance," Ms Boraston said. "One of the first productions was Trial by Jury at Bow Street magistrate's court, which sits up to 50 people. This sold out immediately and we've had to put on more and more performances."

Now, the production will appear at the Royal Courts of Justice for the first week - and will then return to Bow Street - where the audience will watch behind a glass security screen.

The story itself is a comic version of a jilted bride who takes her fiancé to court. It has, the organisers say, a resonance for today. Seats are already selling out, partly due to interest in Gilbert and Sullivan generated by Mike Leigh's critically acclaimed film Topsy-Turvy, about the famous musical partnership.

The festival is also staging HMS Pinafore on board the HMS President, near Blackfriar's bridge in London.