London Theatre Review: Witness for the Prosecution at London County Hall
Posted on 10 May 2019
The venue for Witness for the Prosecution – the Edwardian Baroque-style London County Hall – is as much a star as the play's key protagonists. The Council Chamber makes the perfect setting for this courtroom drama to unfold, having been built nearly 3 years before Agatha Christie published the short story of the same name back in 1925. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this psychological thriller, which was marvellously adapted into a stage play by Agatha Christie herself and first performed in 1953.
This classy period production with a few deliberately dodgy accents, has a hint of gentle self-mockery. Nevertheless, it remains true to Agatha Christie’s original play. Witness for the Prosecution is faithful to all the unexpected twists and turns that you'd have come to expect from reading an Agatha Christie novel or play. It is enthralling enough to please both avid Agatha Christie fans and most theatregoers alike. I got the impression that the cast enjoyed it as much as us, the audience.
What is the Witness for the Prosecution play about?
Jasper Britton as Sir Wilfred Robarts is a QC representing Daniel Solbe’s Leonard Vole, a young married man charged with the murder of Emily French, a wealthy older woman whom he had befriended and regularly visited. Britton plays Robarts with the arrogance, flair and cynicism you would surely anticipate from a senior barrister from that era. He is also charming and funny. Solbe’s Vole is madly in love with his German wife, Romaine, whom he had rescued from Germany after the war. He is also achingly naïve and somewhat vain. He denies killing Emily French, even though she named him as the main beneficiary in her will. Vole is depending on Romaine to provide him with an alibi, even though Emily French’s housekeeper, Janet Mackenzie, played with the right amount of spite and righteousness by Joanna Brookes, reported him to the police. Mackenzie had heard Vole talking and laughing with Emily French on the night of her murder.
Emma Rigby’s Romaine is sexy, flirtatious and untrustworthy when she separately visits Sir Wilfred in the presence of Vole’s solicitor, Mr Mayhew (played by Ewan Stewart as the straight man of the Wilfred/Mayhew duo). She does not appear to take the murder charge or her husband that seriously. Sir Wilfred is immediately attracted and distrustful of Romaine. Perhaps overconfidently, Sir Wilfred relies on her behaviour as well as his skill, and previous successes in court to be able to assess her character.
Is Vole guilty? Who is telling the truth? Who is being played? You'll just have to see for yourself!
What's the final verdict for Witness for the Prosecution?
I think I am guilty of underestimating Agatha Christie’s abilities at writing ingenious plots and the actors’ talents at creating credible characters. Because at first I was slightly disappointed that 2 of the key protagonists seemed more like caricatures; Emma Rigby’s Romaine is a femme fatale while Vole is essentially a cardboard cut-out of a trusting and besotted young man. Later on, I soon understood why they were portrayed as cartoon-like. No spoilers from me though, you’ll have to go and see this fun and entertaining crime thriller yourself.
Witness for the Prosecution tickets: cheap and affordable from just £12!
This five-star production of Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution is currently booking at London County Hall on South Bank until 29 March 2020 in an open-ended run. Book cheap tickets for Witness for the Prosecution from just £12 and up and witness all the gripping action up close and personal in the dazzling Baroque Council Chamber.
Since I was a child and now as an adult, I have loved performing, as an amateur, in choirs and the theatre. As a theatre goer my tastes are broad, I relish musical theatre and dance. I am passionate about plays by a huge range of writers. I am excited by the wide variety of contemporary plays which entertain, challenge and make me feel deeply.
10 years after a life-threatening road traffic collision left me disabled, I retired from working as a National Officer of a trade union. In recent years, I have been inspired to write short fiction after attending creative writing courses. In 2017, I began writing theatre reviews and I am thrilled by the opportunities to combine two of my loves: live theatre and writing.