Please note: I was given tickets to Witness for the Prosecution in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Last week, I took my Mum with me to see Witness for the Prosecution at London County Hall, a short walk from Waterloo Station (and within a stone’s throw of the London Eye). We were both so excited to see this play, as we’re huge Golden Age mystery fans, and my Mum gave me my first Agatha Christie book when I was about 10 years old (it was Halloween Party – very appropriate as it features a character called Miranda, and my birthday is in October!).
Philip Franks as Mr Myers QC in Witness for the Prosecution. Image source.
I’d never seen an Agatha Christie play before (now I want to get to The Mousetrap too!), but I already knew the short story of Witness for the Prosecution, which Christie wrote in the 1920s, but later adapted into a play in 1953. A young man, Leonard Vole, stands accused of murdering an elderly lady whom he’d once helped and who subsequently grew fond of him, treating him like a son (and changing her will to leave him her fortune). The case against Vole seems cut-and-dried, but Vole’s defence counsel becomes convinced of his innocence, especially when the testimony of Vole’s vindictive wife hints at a possible plot to ensure her husband is sentenced…. In typical Christie fashion, there is a brilliant twist to the story at the end, which I certainly shan’t give away here, but prepare to be shocked when you see the play for yourself!
Witness for the Prosecution stands out not only for its devilishly clever storyline, but for its courtroom setting. Everyone in the audience was clearly delighted by the fantastic way the play has been staged by Lucy Bailey at the now disused debating chamber in London County Hall, which is easy to imagine as the Old Bailey, the play’s predominant setting. A sense of occasion is created as soon you arrive at County Hall and sweep up the grand staircase to take your seat in the rows of large leather cushioned pews.
Witness for the Prosecution at London County Hall. Image Credit: Sheila Burnett
Where politicians once hammered out political debates, Leonard Vole’s trial is staged, with legal counsels for the defence and prosecution arguing whether or not he should be found guilty of murder. The impressive setting lends to the theatricality of the cast’s performance, and the audience is made to feel a part of the play, as though we were all spectators in the gallery of a courtroom. Some seats are even positioned so that twelve members of the audience are used as the jurors, which certainly adds a piquancy to your typical theatre experience!
The cast, though small, was strong. I was especially impressed by Richard Clothier and Philip Franks, who played the part of defending and prosecuting barristers perfectly. Their cross-examinations kept the audience spellbound, and they brought a drama and flourish to their speeches that would have made Rumpole proud. Lucy Phelps played a fiery Romaine Vole, and Harry Reid oozed boyish charm as her husband Leonard.
Witness for the Prosecution is an unforgettable courtroom drama and shows Agatha Christie at her very best. I highly recommend it for a fun, different night out in London!
You can book tickets to see Witness for the Prosecution here.