THEATRE REVIEW: Witness for the Prosecution ★★★

Witness for The Prosecution
London County Hall, South Bank
Friday 6th October 2017 - Sunday 18th April 2021

An evening at the theatre catching an Agatha Christie production has always been a real treat due to the shrouded secrecy behind all of her classics; And Then There Were None is any detective’s dream as audiences try to figure out how the 10 little soldiers mysteriously disappear one by one from view, whilst The Mousetrap is triumphant for keeping the murderer a secret following a plea from it’s cast following the bows, for which it is now in it’s 59th year in the West End, holding onto the claim as London’s Longest Running Play.

As a short story originally published in the weely pulp magazine ‘Flynns’ in 1925 under the name ‘Traitor’s Hands’ before then being included in book form with Christie’s ‘The Hound of Death Collection’ in 1933 under it’s now current name, Witness of the Prosecution tells the story of Leonard Vole (Taz Skylar), who has been sentenced to the death penalty following the murder of the wealthy Emily French, who shortly before her death changed her will to stae the Vole would be her principal heir. Set against the grand London County Hall, where even some of the audience get to portray a real jury, the atmosphere around the space certainly pulsates throughout the space as we watch on, but sadly it doesn’t do the story justice in which it rarely escalates until the latter stages of the piece.

A fansciting development early in Christie’s writing is the involvement of Leonard’s wife Romaine (Alexandra Guelff), when she indeed takes the stand in the courtroom and becomes the witness for the prosecution; Guelff oozes charisma and has the audience compelled, as Romaine continues to become a real enigma to Leonard’s solicitor My Myers (Crispin Redman) and senior counsellor Sir Wilfred Robarts (Jo Stone-Fewings). Sadly the scenes that involve Myers and Robarts are rather bogged down in politics and very much given the long-winded treatment in what can last much longer than needed, though Lucy Bailey’s direction does keep William Dudley’s set design flourish through excellent choreographed scene changes that involve the whole company.

Prosecution also has you questioning throughout who really is in the frame, as we find ourselves toying with Leonard’s tate of events against his wife, with the time of Leonard’s arrival back at his home becoming vital to the story; it ceratinly takes up almost the whole play for us to discover the truth behind the murder and ultimately who is guilty, but Chritsie does a marvellous job in literaly pulling the rug from under our feet in multiple ways in such a short space of time hurtling towards the climax, with even an errie dark meeting pulling the focus in the county hall to near blackness as a mysterious character comes forward with vital information. There’s even what looks like audience interaction as one woman shouts from the balcony in disgust during the court scenes before being silenced by the judge, Mr Justice Wainwright (Jeffery Wainwright), which certainly perked up the audience who bolted upright within their seats.

Overall, Witness for The Prosecution certainly builds on it’s premise thanks to the stunning location in which the production is held, but the action is where the focus gets lost, when too much explanation and minimal movement on stage outways the tension and mystery behind the ultimate murder.


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