London County Hall – booking until 20 March 2022
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Lucy Bailey’s stunning production of Witness For The Prosecution returns to London County Hall better than ever.
Agatha Christie’s classic play has all the twists and turns you expect, and still draws gasps from audience members who are unfamiliar with the plot twists. The immersive production is in the perfect setting within the magnificently atmospheric council chamber, creating a real sense of authority when the court officials are present.
Beginning with Leonard Vole’s melodramatic premonition of being found guilty of murder and hanged, things are soon much more civilised as Vole (Joe McNamara) and his solicitor Mr Mayhew (Teddy Kempner) relate the facts of his case to Sir Wilfrid Robarts QC (Jonathan Firth). Vole had befriended a rich old lady (she’s in her fifties!) and become a regular visitor to her home. When she is found dead from a blow to the head after an apparent burglary attempt, the police suspect Vole. The victim’s housekeeper insists she heard Vole at the house, but his wife insists he was at home with her. However, Vole’s wife Romaine (Emer McDaid) is German – will a 1950’s jury believe a foreigner? – and her behaviour and attitude is puzzling. What is she planning, and will she stick to her story in court?
With many of the cast making their West End debuts, including the impressive McNamara, performances are all top-notch. Emer McDaid is wonderfully spiky and smart as Romaine, constantly mocking and running rings around the establishment men. Firth and Kempner’s flummoxed faces as they encounter her are hilarious. There are many more laughs with this cast – especially when Firth and Miles Richardson as his adversary Mr Myers QC are letting rip in court, both barristers viewing the courtroom as their stage and convinced they can persuade the jury with sheer force of personality and dramatic waving of arms. When arguments are lost, the deflation is physical, and extremely funny. Yvonne Gidden steals the show as the victim’s housekeeper Janet Mackenzie – her distaste for Vole is palpable, and her building indignation as she is questioned is a joy to see.
Classy and atmospheric, Witness For The Prosecution is a fantastic courtroom drama that will thrill and delight.