Witness for the Prosecution review

Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(20user reviews)
 (© Sheila Burnett)
1/5
© Sheila Burnett Patrick Godfrey and Catherine Steadman
 (© Sheila Burnett)
2/5
© Sheila Burnett Jack McMullen and Jon House
 (© Sheila Burnett)
3/5
© Sheila Burnett Philip Franks
 (© Sheila Burnett)
4/5
© Sheila Burnett Catherine Steadman
 (© Sheila Burnett)
5/5
© Sheila Burnett

Book theatre tickets

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Hugely fun site-specific revival of this Agatha Christie courtroom drama

It wasn’t all about Poirot’s little grey cells or Miss Marple solving murders at the vicarage. In her lifetime, crime writer extraordinaire Agatha Christie wrote 16 plays and a massive 73 novels.

Apart from the immortal ‘Mousetrap’, ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ – which Christie adapted in 1953 from an earlier short story – is one of the most famous.

Like most of Christie’s work, you can’t say much for fear of ruining the ending. Leonard Vole (a butter-wouldn’t-melt Jack McMullen) is on trial for murdering an older woman who has left everything to him in her will. He insists he’s innocent, but it all rests on the testimony of his wife, Romaine. What will she say on the stand?

When Christie adapted her original story, she shifted the focus almost exclusively to the Old Bailey courtroom. Here, Lucy Bailey’s production has the gift of being in the main chamber of London County Hall. Big, austere and grand, it’s the perfect setting for the legal theatrics of Christie’s forensically precise plotting. Some audience members are even addressed as the jury.

If the courtroom is a stage, this play is all about performance. Few are as good as Christie at leading us down the garden path, expectations-wise. She constructs her plot like Vole’s barrister, Sir Wilfrid Robarts QC (a charismatic David Yelland), builds his case, before knocking over apparent ‘revelations’ like dominoes.

Bailey plays up the melodrama beautifully, in some scenes lighting the judge’s bench like something from a horror film, while punctuating mic-drop testimony with a thundering score. She keeps Christie’s script clear and punchy, including a fun undercurrent about the British establishment’s smug complacency.

The cast have a lot of fun with their characters, particularly Steadman as no-nonsense Romaine. She strides on stage in a signature black beret and cuts through the British bluster with a raised eyebrow and a German accent loaded with wryness.

‘Witness for the Prosecution’ is pointedly full of stereotypes; they’re kind of what it’s all about. Christie’s narratives are like spring traps. Now, though, the extra twist she added for the play feels weirdly more old-fashioned than the original short story’s ending.

Nonetheless, this is a deliciously enjoyable revival. It has the same twisty-turn-y fun as the best Christie TV adaptations.

By: Tom Wicker

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Users say (20)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

4.1 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:6
  • 4 star:9
  • 3 star:5
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|20
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This had to be one of the most interesting and exciting play I have seen in a while. The cast were brilliant and the plot, a staple of Agatha Christie, was captivating. Being in the setting of a court house whilst they investigate who murdered Ms French, you find yourself feeling like you are actually witnessing true legal proceedings. And the scene change was nothing but flawless. I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants a fun and adventurous night out in court. Bravo!

tastemaker

A long-awaited trip for my friend and me to the old County Hall where we had both once worked, to see this much-lauded play.  Indeed it was good - though took us both a while to "get into it".  For the most part, the acting was superb. My friend and I both have hearing impairments, so when "Romaine" came on stage we could not make out a word she said - even with the special hearing aid the theatre provided.  A light voice and strong assumed accents do not work for people like us (almost a million in the UK).  I do wish directors would wake up to this fact.  So the enjoyment wore off  towards the end.  And why the unnecessary embellishment to the end of the plot?  It felt awkward.  I felt cheated.


This was absolutely brilliant! If only I could give more stars, great twist at the end although I got it, but my husband did not. And seen as this was a surprise gift that was the cherry on top. Go see it!


A great play in a unique setting. County Hall is the perfect location for this play as makes you feel like you are in an actual court. The play keeps you on the edge of your seat as the drama unfolds. 

tastemaker

Agatha Christie is a goddess in my eyes so I might be slightly bias! This was the ultimate experience if this is your kind of play, imagine sitting in one of the oldest courts in England with Lady Justice overseeing proceedings, watching a courtroom drama, as the audience you are asked to pass your judgement as if part of the play. From entering the building I was in awe of the marble features and all the historical plaques on the walls. By the time I was sitting in the wooden benches of public gallery and the 'jury' audience had been ushered in I was buzzing with excitement. The play is set in the round which meant characters appeared from all directions, keeping you hooked as the drama unfolded. Very cleverly put together and the actors were supreme. I won't give away anything more away that may spoil your enjoyment but this production is a triumph and a 'must see'.

Tastemaker

I really love shows that put you in the very setting of the plot, and this was one of the best shows I have seen do that (apart from Sweeney Todd in the Pie Shop!). Being sat right in court in County Hall was the most perfect venue for this production. The show was gripping and had so many twists and turns (won't spoilt it for you) that you are just left wondering how you didn't see that earlier! The scene changes had long breaks, but this was understandable due to the venue, and didn't really take away from the excellent production. The acting was top notch, especially lead Harry Reid. He really stole your heart and pity throughout the show. Finally, there were special seats where you could play the jury, which I think really added to the immersiveness and would have been a very nice experience (you had to swear in before the show started). Overall a highly recommended experience!

tastemaker

What a wonderful and inspiring evening I had at the County Hall by Westminster Bridge.

It was spectacular to see Agatha Christie’s ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ come to life inside an authentic courtroom.

The County Hall is the perfect setting to bring this cunning play to life and it was undeniably powerful to witness it.

I’m truly lost for words and still shocked by the outcome.

I was hooked every single second and I felt part of this twisted story.

It was like being summoned for jury service and the twist is completely unexpected.

The courtroom setting really helped bring this dramatic, gripping story come to life in front of our very eyes.

We all love Agatha Christie’s twists in her stories. It was so funny and very interesting to see the whole audience guessing the murderer of this unsolved mystery.

What happens between Leonard Vole (Harry Reid) and the woman he considers to be his auntie?

Will Leonard Vole convince the jury that he’s not guilty?

If you’re looking for the answers, then I suggest and highly recommend you go and see this remarkable production.

I have to say that I’m still in shock with the ending as I write this.

I was not expecting it at all. I believed in something and it wasn’t the reality.

In a way it was really good because the actor who is trying to convince you of something did the job incredibly well.

Not a fault to be seen on that small stage of County Hall.

When entering the County Hall I felt that I had a duty to defend the truth. It’s so weird.

The atmosphere and the staging design really helped to give this show the intensity and drama that it needs. Otherwise it wouldn’t of been the same and it would of fell flat.

I don’t really like it when people start to compare shows with a similar storyline.

Each and every show is different and unique in every way possible, so comparing it is pointless.

The Witness for the Prosecution brought life, brought power and brought questions. I love a show that brings discussions to the table. I also love the dark twist that no one awaits. It’s exciting.

I have to congratulate the cast. The cast are sensational and mesmerising to witness.

One person stood out for me in the entire show and the entire evening.

That person was Lucy Phelps who plays Romaine Vole (the foreigner and Leonard’s alleged wife). She was sensational, brilliant, fantastic and funny in every way.

It was a breath of fresh air witnessing her presence on stage.

Love her character from the beginning to the end.

She has the right amount of intensity and passion that this story needs.

Both Richard Clothier plays (Sir Wilfred Robarts) and Philip Franks plays (Mr Myers) are stupendously hilarious and very dramatic on stage.

I was also hooked watching them both go on and on in the courtroom.

If you love the classic stories of Agatha Christie, then you will fall in love with this show.

It was a pleasure and an honour to be part of this intense play.

Witness this story at London County Hall for yourself. A place of mystery and wonder. #SeeYouInCourt.

Love MD.

#TOTastemaker

Tastemaker

Hands down better than Mousetrap! Beautiful venue, County Hall is perfect for the court room drama! Would suit a tourist or a Londoner! Just great fun all around!


A classic whodunit theatre experience, where the location almost distracts from the performances themselves...emphasis on the word, ‘almost’. Set in a court chamber in the heart of County Hall, ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ has all the ingredients that you would expect from an Agatha Christie murder mystery. Unlike ‘The Mousetrap’, which is a bit hammy and past its time, this is fresh and exciting, with well thought out production values that both keep you at the edge of your seat, but also transport you from the backstreets of Limehouse, to the courtrooms of central London.

The plot concerns Leonard Vole (Harry Reid) who has been accused of murdering a widow in order to inherit her wealth. He seems innocent enough, and there are other possible suspects including the accused’s wife, Romaine Vole, who is a very shady and confusing character, or perhaps Janet Mackenzie, the victim's housekeeper, who was sure she heard the victim and Leonard talking in the sitting room when she popped back for her knitting, or was it someone else entirely. There are red herrings a plenty and the audience is left guessing right to the end about exactly what happened and who committed the murder most foul 

There are some known faces within the cast, probably Philip Franks who plays Mr Myers QC, and Harry Reid, who is known for being in EastEnders, are the two most well known.

I found it refreshing that the show wasn’t heavily sold on the cast, but instead the writer and the experience itself. This is one definitely to watch as an alternative Friday night out, or if you are looking for something a bit different and unique.

tastemaker

Agatha Christie is the world renowned 'who dunnit' author but how would this story translate in the theatre? BBC did an adaption a few Christmas's ago. The tv adaptation was over 2 nights and rather long. How could County Hall get this play into 3 hours? 


So the actors spoke fast and were meticulous with the scene changes. This didnt spoil the flow and it certainly kept the energy up. It was a magnificent back drop and the acting from Romaine was exceptional. 


I think this production did complete justice. Excuse the pun.

tastemaker

Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie. Oh yes, Christie does love a twist so during the whole play the audience keeps guessing 'Who is the murderer'....

The maim character, Leonard Vole, is a young man who sits a trial for murdering an older cat-lover lady he had recently befriended. She was wealthy and lonely, and very fond of Vole, who she reminded of his aunty. Awww. We also know that shortly before the events she signed her new will to Vole. His wife can provide him an alibi but is it legit? Is she even trustworthy at all? 
Well, I am silent on the murder mystery. .However, if you compare this play to the timeless Mousetrap, The Witness is rather mediocre. 

The play is very dramatic thanks to the magnificent venue, which is an actual chamber hall in the Westminster County Hall, transformed in to the court hall. It's a fascinating place to explore  with its pillars and panelling, with its grand galleries.

tastemaker

The setting itself already made the show. Such an unusual venue and is very fitting for this Agatha Christie's work. I felt like I was involved in the court hearing. The cast themselves did well to play the characters and the story line was intriguing.


The 1st half felt quite slow but the second half was gripping and paced well. However, I found the ending very disappointing; It was paced fast... Blink and you would miss what happened. It also did not match the opening scene. I actually left with a "Huh??!!" feeling... 



I was looking forward to this as much for the setting as anything and I wasn’t disappointed. Fantastically atmospheric being in County Hall. The play was very pacy - I was gripped from beginning to end. I am telling everyone to go and see it while they have the chance. You too!

tastemaker

This play is great, and couldn't be more suited to County Hall. The acting is first rate and believable, I'm not au fait with Christie's stories, but seeing this made me want to read some. It's a shame to read that the twist at the end isn't in the original story, as its a really good one and you don't see it coming! 'Witness' is completely under the radar, like The Mousetrap, it isn't massively publicised, but by damn it's good and brings in audiences.

Tastemaker

What a fabolous setting in the courtroom, for the story to unfold as to who did the murder.

Based in the old courts

Of County Hall, this was a perfect venue, the ambience was fantastic.

The Agatha Christie book was brought to life, the cast were great, apart from some dodgy accent, but watching it all come together was brilliant. The prosecution and the defence were brilliant. I actually felt I was in a real court room.

I can’t believe who the murderer was!! Go to be enthralled.

Tastemaker

I have to be careful to not turn this into a review for the venue. Staging it at London County Hall was a great choice: just entering into this grand building with its pillars and huge staircases creates a wonderful atmosphere. Our seats were fairly far back, but still had a sense of that grandness (although, I’m very jealous of the seats further forward who had desks: why do I never get a desk at the theatre?) This setting is especially suitable for the courtroom scenes and gives a palpable sense of drama to the trial unfolding. Unfortunately, the play didn’t really deserve it. The cast did a decent job, but they story was paper thin. I just left a little underwhelmed. My parents loved it though, and they watch all of ITVs Christie dramas. Either way: a magnificent venue.


A murder mystery in an iconic location (London’s County hall, a stone throw away from the Houses of Parliament and Westminster bridge)- ‘Witness for the prosecution’ will provide for two hours of entertainment, guessing, and of course, a clever twist at the end. And the location plays a key part in the story. You will find yourself in a courtroom, bearing witness to the trial of Leonard Vole, who may or may not have murdered Emily French. Different twists in the plot will require the main main podium of the courtroom to become a study at times or a dark alley at others. The acting is good, the twists surprising (if you haven’t read or forgotten the novel) and the tension created at the key moments of the plot very believable. If you are ready to splurge on the tickets, you can even get a seat at the jury bench and may be one of the members of the jury who gets to cast the verdict on Leonard at the end of the play. Overall, a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  

Tastemaker

So anyone who watched last year's BBC Agatha Christie christmas special would know the story- I was one of them. The venue was expertly chosen, even though if you were in the nosebleeds it can be quite cramped. I enjoyed the pacing and the setting of the play- however I felt the ending in which all is discovered to be a bit rushed and strange- it happens in the last 5 minutes of the play. 


All in all it is good fun and something different. 

tastemaker

The staging of this play is fantastic and you feel like you are in a courtroom watching the action unfold and you are totally drawn in.  It is very cheesy in parts - dodgy accents, courtroom sound effects, over acting etc.  However, I had great fun and it was a very engaging play!


What really sets this production apart is the unique setting in County Hall. The room is used imaginatively & feels like a bespoke venue. The play is witty & pacy. I didn't see the twist coming & the last 10minutes the shocks came thick & fast. Well worth catching & far superior to the other current Ms Christie play The Mousetrap.