The events surrounding a murder trial will this week be dramatised in a new play at the King’s Head theatre on Upper Street.
Sam Hallam, 24, was convicted of the murder of Essayas Kassahun in a gang attack on Old Street in October 2004.
His family claim he is the victim of a miscarriage of justice – that there is a lack of physical evidence and the two eye-witnesses who accused Mr Hallam later altered their statements.
Someone to Blame, directed by David Mercatali and written by Tess Berry-Hart, is based on real police interviews and court proceedings. Rob Crouch, who plays the part of Mr Hallam, said he is “deeply honoured” to play the role.
Mr Crouch, 21, who graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art last summer, was drawn to Mr Hallam’s story after researching the campaign. He said: “When I read it online I was so shocked and stunned by it, and just thought ‘God, that could really happen to anyone.”
The actor made the deliberate decision not to visit Mr Hallam before shaping his role – though they have exchanged letters. He said: “I’ve now made all my character choices, so whatever I do is my interpretation of how I’d feel if I was in that scenario – rather than doing an impersonation of someone.”
On Sunday Mr Crouch went to Bullingdon prison in Oxfordshire to finally meet Mr Hallam. He said: “It’s just me seeing Sam and getting to know him as a person.”
Last week it was announced that Mr Hallam’s appeal will take place at the Royal Courts of Justice in May. Mr Crouch said: “Unfortunately, not a lot of information was disclosed to Sam’s lawyers and it’s incredible what the Thames Valley Police have discovered since.
“I will be very upset if Sam’s conviction doesn’t get quashed. I can imagine that being in prison is tough, but being in prison being innocent must be almost unbearable.”
“It’s the best years of his life – those years for me were incredible. I’m 21; I’m a few years younger than Sam, but I know how those years were for me and the fact he’s had them taken away from him, no matter what happens, he’ll never get them back.”
The Sam Hallam campaign has been widely covered by the media, and featured in a short film by the actor Ray Winstone – the uncle of Mr Hallam’s best friend – for Tonight with Trevor McDonald in 2007.
It is both Mr Crouch and Ms Berry-Hart’s first production at the King’s Head. Ms Berry-Hart said, “It’s a really nice space to work in for the staging of the piece – we’re really trying to do something different with it.”
She added, “It’s becoming a really exciting piece of theatre.”
Someone to Blame runs at the King’s Head until March 31.