Witness for the Prosecution at London County Hall
County Hall is once again open for business. And the jury – pardon – the audience is presented with a thorny case of money, devotion and perjury. Agatha Christie’s whodunit resumes residence in the stunning chamber on the Southbank, set to thrill and surprise.
“The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” the witnesses swear, one after the other, as they approach the stand at the trial of Leonard Vole (Joe McNamara), charged with the murder of Mrs Emily French (a wealthy, middle-aged woman, who grew fond of him). All the proof so far is collected from circumstantial evidence against the prisoner, who is about to inherit a large sum of money from the victim. And still, he seems the most innocent, an attractive and unfortunate young man. The attorneys’ arguments seem to lead continuously to a grey area, until the testimony of a key witness turns the tide. And, eventually, turns it again.
Courtroom drama and investigative story blend for a thrilling narrative. The twists and turns of the gripping tale by the queen of detective stories couldn’t find a more appropriate home than here, among the columns and high ceilings of a real court. As one crosses the threshold, the majesty of the vault – the wooden benches, the judge’s chair – emanate solemnity. The most exciting sections of the show are those in the courtroom. For the other segments set outside, the changes of scene happen swiftly and with the support of well designed ambient sound.
From the very first exchanges on-stage, the sustained pace commands the unremitting attention of the public. The climax is built smoothly, mostly thanks to the clean work of director Lucy Bailey and staggering performances from the cast. McNamara’s candid defence is as naive as Emer McDaid (as the red-haired and unfaltering Romaine Vole) is spiky. Jonathan Firth, who wears Sir Wilfred Robarts’s shoes, is a force of nature: alternatively dynamic and poised, he leads the case in fervent debates with the main female characters – the ungovernable Janet Mackenzie (Yvonne Gidden) and Romaine Vole. The humour embedded in the flow adds the benefit of breaking the tension.
For theatregoers seeking a special point of view, there are 12 seats on the righthand side of the judge, sold as Jury tickets, which offer a small involvement in the show and a prime spot from which to follow the events.
Aside from very few passages submitting to a proper judiciary tone, even those not particularly inspired by the genre will find it difficult not to be enraptured by Witness for the Prosecution. This production and setting find the perfect expression of a strong storyline.
Photo: Ellie Kurttz
Witness for the Prosecution is on at County Hall London from 14th September 2021 until 20th March 2022. For further information or to book visit here.
Watch a trailer for the show here: