The courtroom drama opens tomorrow night, 5 December, for a limited 12-week season at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, where it has been in previews since 30 November 2000.

The interactive cliffhanger concerns a doctor who is charged with poisoning his wife. Each night, the audience must decide, based on the evidence presented, whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. Is Dr Sherwood a faithful husband or is he a ruthless, two-timing murderer? Once the audience casts its votes, the drama continues with one of two alternate endings.

Archer plays the accused, Dr Patrick Sherwood. The distinguished cast also stars Edward Petherbridge (Sir James Barrington QC), Tony Britton (Mr Justice Cartwright), Michael Feast (Anthony Kersley QC), Emma Davies (Jennifer Mitchell) and Edward de Souza (The Jury Bailiff). They are joined by David Collings, Douglas Fielding, Neil France, Richard Hodder, Dominic Kemp, Madhav Sharma, Gary Taylor, Janet Wantling and David Weston.

The Accused is directed by Val May and designed by Simon Higlett, with sound by Frank Bradley and lighting by Vince Herbert. It is produced by Lee Menzies.

Archer is infamous in the UK for his numerous political and financial scandals - and for his ability to bounce back from disaster by turning his hand to new things. His bid last year to become London's first mayor was derailed by the revelation that he had asked a friend to lie in court in his 1987 libel action against the Daily Star newspaper.

Archer revealed his intention to take to the stage in March 2000, during his first post-resignation interview. He told television interviewer Martin Bashir that he felt "very apologetic and very broken" to give up his dream of becoming mayor. He said that he worked on the play script during that time to keep his mind off his troubles and drew on his own courtroom experiences. "I was desperately fed up, very low, broken and the catharsis was getting up in the morning and trying to do something, trying to concentrate, trying to get one's mind off everything and put something down on paper, actually do something."

Although Archer is a member of the actors' Equity union, he has never performed professionally. "It's a new challenge," he admitted. "I've no doubt the critics will have their pencils sharpened long before they reach the theatre, but I've faced that every time in my life. Once again I will ask the public what they think."

In addition to his political career, Archer has carved a lucrative niche for himself as a novelist. His best-selling thrillers include "The Eleventh Commandment", "First Among Equals" and "The Prodigal's Daughter". His previous plays include Beyond Reasonable Doubt and Exclusive.

Prior to the West End, The Accused toured to Windsor, Manchester, Coventry, Brighton, Bromley and Guildford.