[Review] Agatha Christie's 'Witness for the Prosecution'

'Witness for the Prosecution' was a 2010 production by the Agatha Christie Theatre Company. Leading the all-star cast was Honeysuckle Weeks (Foyle’s War), Denis Lill (The Royal), Ben Nealon (Soldier, Soldier), Robert Duncan (Drop the Dead Donkey), Peter Byrne, Jennifer Wilson and Mark Wynter.
'Witness for the Prosecution' was written by Agatha Christie in 1925. It was later made into an Oscar winning movie starring Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power and Charles Laughton.

When the story begins on stage, the essential murder has already taken place and Ben Nealon’s Leonard Vole is the obvious suspect - such a pleasant naive young man who freely admits to all the suspicious circumstances of the case with only his wife’s corroboration of timing to support him, but Honeysuckle Weeks’ Romaine Vole is not exactly the devoted wife he believes her to be - she has plans of her own. The guttural Russian accent which Weeks adopts is a little hard to understand at first, but her meaning is clear with the character displaying icy cold, calm control almost to the end, and giving evidence in a flat, unemotional tone of voice, until she finally breaks down.

 [Choir of King’s College, Cambridge: Miserere Mei]

Each act begins with a recording of Allegri's Miserere Mei, sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge - a very appropriate choice as the one thing you can be sure of in a Christie Mystery is that someone will be in need of divine forgiveness and mercy by the end of the play. What we never know is who, and this courtroom drama really does keep the audience guessing to the very end.

Director Joe Harmston keeps the the story rolling along nicely, balancing drama with comedy and including little observational touches of human behaviour - notably the men absent-mindedly warming themselves by the fire as they discuss the case in hand.

The chief protagonist is Sir Wilfrid, played by Denis Lill, who takes over the case and the show in a star performance of thoughtful deliberation, aggressive interrogation, and chagrin when bested by the comical overtly Scottish housekeeper (Jennifer Wilson). He is well supported by Robert Duncan’s equally thoughtful Mr. Mayhew, and courtroom comedy is credibly conspicuous - understated and very funny - with the verbal sparring between him and Mark Wynter’s prosecution lawyer, Mr Myers, QC.

More about Honeysuckle Weeks can be found here

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