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.
Average User Rating
4.1 / 5
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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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.