The Lord & Lady returned for a second verdict to Witness For The Prosecution at London County Hall, after seeing the show 2 years ago in the fabulous setting we knew were in for a night of thrills. The show has been running since 2017 at The Chamber at London County Hall and brings the classic Agatha Christie play to life with the setting acting as another actor. We were seated in the courtroom stalls and the panoramic view and ambience is totally different to the usual theatre setting. Before the show starts the walk into County Hall feels imposing, regal and intimidating, in fact actors walk around as barrister’s and police which gives a nice touch to the start of your experience.
Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time, she is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, as well as the world’s longest-running play – The Mousetrap – also currently playing in London. Witness for the Prosecution is a play adapted by Agatha Christie from her 1925 short story “Traitor’s Hands”, the piece is classic Christie with themes of murder, mystery, suspense and multi layered characters. The story revolves around young Leonard Vole (Joe McNamara) and the trial to see if he is guilty or not guilty of the crime of murder. The naive and weak Vole befriended Emily French and one fateful night she is found murdered most brutally; Vole willingly talks to the police knowing he will be questioned by them as he was last seen at the residence of Ms. French to show her his new inventions.
Joe McNamara as Leonard Vole is instantly believable and likeable as the hapless, downtrodden Vole looking for ways to make money from his inventions and keep his wife Romaine happy. We first meet Vole at the start of the play with the menacing first scene at the gallows before the story goes back to unfold. Vole goes to see Sir Wilfred Robarts, Q.C (Jonathan Firth) with Mr Mayhew (Teddy Kempner) to ask for his advice and explain how he knew Ms. French and this is where the zigzagging of the plot begin to take place.
We are also introduced to Vole’s mysterious, beautiful wife Romaine (Emer McDaid), well played by Emer McDaid as you instantly don’t like Romaine and feel she is definitely hiding something! We also meet Ms French’s bitter Caribbean house maid (Yvonne Gidden) who is not a fan of Leonard Vole and claims she heard him on the night in question.
The scenes in the courtroom are magnificent seeing Sir Wilfred Robarts, Q.C (Jonathan Firth) cross swords with Mr Myers, QC. The cross examining of key witnesses send the audience on a rollercoaster ride of twists and turns which is typical of Agatha Christie’s work, just when you think you have the plot solved, she throws another spanner in the mix!
There is clever use of The London County Hall to change scenes between the chambers and courtroom with the horseshoe shaped venue being used to transport items by brown overalled removal players brushing past the stalls. The doors into the Hall are also cleverly used as entrances and exits and highly effective with names being shouted for witnesses echoing around the high domed ceiling and the little touches of notes being handed between QC and Solicitor’s giving you the real feel you are witnessing a real trial.
Director Lucy Bailey has created a wonderful piece which works well with the stunning effective lighting from Chris Davey and the designs of William Dudley blend into the historic chamber and 1950s period costumes by Joan Hughes are on point. The audience is taken on a whirlwind of emotions across all cast members play their roles to perfection and deliver on many occasions gasps of shock and surprise! It must be noted Joe McNamara is in his West End debut as Leonard Vole and performs a masterclass in the development of his character and what he goes through. Witness For The Prosecution is not guilty of letting Agatha Christie fans down and we would highly recommend you have your day in court!
Witness For The Prosecution is at London County Hall, tickets available online.