The skull of an Oxford pianist will no longer be used for performances of Hamlet in London after the Royal Shakespeare Company feared it could distract audiences.

The human remains of Cumnor concert pianist Andre Tchaikowsky had been used during 22 performances of the play in Stratford-upon-Avon featuring Doctor Who star David Tennant.

The skull of Mr Tchai- kowsky, a Holocaust survivor born in Poland, was bequeathed to the theatre company 16 years ago as it had been his dying wish for it to appear in the famous grave-digger scene.

However, when the play opens at the Novello Theatre in the capital in January, a fake skull will used instead.

RSC spokesman Nada Zakula said: “The director, Gregory Doran, has decided that he won’t be using it in London.

“Now that the news is out it creates an unwanted distraction.

“When you use human tissue you have to get special permission for the building it is used in.

“We had that permission in Stratford, but we won’t be seeking it now in London.

“David was quite happy using the skull and we were very, very pleased to use it and fulfil Andre’s wish.

“It will be looked after well.”