On a Saturday morning Snow White rushes down the halls of Birkbeck to meet The Evil Queen and compliment her outfit. The two queens hug and kiss each other, brightening up the atmosphere with their outfits and high spirits.
Further along, King Costel (Emporer’s New Groove) is taking selfies with Robin Hood’s Prince John, a lawyer in robes runs to print documents, and a Mirror appears to ask if anyone has seen Grumpy the Dwarf yet.
No, this isn’t some parallel universe where Disney characters commute from the Endless Realm to attend classes; this is The Birkbeck Law Project’s first Mock Trial of the year, Snow White – Vs -The Evil Queen: The Attempted Murder of Snow White.
The audience is ushered into court, witnesses like myself (usually excluded from the court until time for our testimonies) are allowed to watch so long as we don’t let what we see cloud our statements. As the judges take their seats we are asked for “silence in court” and it becomes clear that while the costumes are elaborate (and most of the witnesses ridiculous) everyone involved is taking this seriously.
The judges and lawyers formally introduce themselves and after, a brief ‘lawyer’ moment where the jury leaves the room for some motions to be put forward to the judges, the trial of The Evil Queen begins.
The first witness is called Snow White and gone is the woman from the hallway who was making phone calls and directing people to their places. Here she’s replaced with a simpering young lady who loves to clean and talk to animals and whose only trouble in life is not being allowed to sing in court.
The lawyers take no prisoners though and Snow White is grilled by the defence on her perceptions of her stepmother, the lack of interest she places in remembering the exact dates of events, and even her choice in Handsome Princes.
Snow White doesn’t break character once and cheerfully answers even the most damning questions with smiles, waves and an offer to share her recipe for mushroom pasta.
Witnesses called throughout the day include hilarious renditions of Dory the Fish “yes I’m a natural blue” whose memory was questioned “wait, why is everyone looking at me?”, Grumpy the Dwarf who may have feelings for Snow, a wonderfully catty King Costel who can’t be sure what he saw as he was busy looking at his own reflection, and testimony from the Magic Mirror (which was given, questioned and defended in rhyming couplets).
When the Handsome Prince wasn’t sure of his testimony, the lawyers pounced and made a case for him being an overzealous admirer who might have benefited from Snow needing true love’s kiss (all in the name of casting “reasonable doubt”, but rather him than me!).
Finally The Queen herself had a chance to state her case and she did not disappoint, sassy and selective with the truth she made us all laugh as she defended herself admirably, making light of accusations that she might be sleeping with The Huntsman: “No I’m not having an affair, he’s a thing that I own…so maybe I lie on him sometimes…”.
Other witnesses include an impressively dressed King John who “spends a lot of time in Nottingham right now to deal with outlaws” and The Huntsman who says The Evil Queen really did intend him to murder Snow White (with a spoon!).
My turn to take the stand came; as an “expert witness” I had diagnosed The Queen with Paranoid Schizophrenia – she thinks her mirror is talking to her and believes Snow is coming for her crown with a group of small men – and I had a great time insisting I didn’t have a drinking problem (but I did!).
Holding everything together though were the lawyers, who intelligently matched their questions to the testimonies and made strong cases for both sides, and the third queen of the day has to be the firm-but-fair judge who coolly made calls on what was relevant, what wasn’t clear, and when to tell characters to be quiet.
Everyone involved had clearly worked hard to create an inclusive show that allowed students to engage with the trial process and get involved. I was thoroughly impressed with the amount of preparation that had clearly gone into making the day a success and with everyone else who agreed to lend time to support The Law Project. We’re all looking forward to the next one.
Written by Hana Faber as an expert witness for the Mock Trial and Student of Psychology (BSc) at Birkbeck)