I’m very fond of theatre which utilises “found space”, whether it is as a pop-up venue or, as here, repurposing the stunning council chamber at County Hall which was once the centre of London’s local government.
This room has now been repurposed as the courtroom at the Old Bailey, where Leonard Vole (a fine performance from Lewis Cope), accused of murder, is brought to trial.
It begins with a rather hysterical sequence in which Vole is sentenced to death and executed before we find ourselves in the chambers of Sir Wilfrid Robarts, combative defence lawyer (played by Simon Dutton, once seen on TV as Simon Templar, no less, some thirty years ago).
Agatha Christie’s work lends itself well to drama and theatrics, and once we are in the court (for £95 you can be a jury member, with a prime position) it feels as if we are really involved with the case.
Out to reach a guilty verdict on the accused is Mr Myers (a fine piece of work from Giles Taylor, who evokes memories of the late film actor Marius Goring).
Is Vole guilty, ot not? And what of his cold and mysterious German wife (Carolin Stoltz, who turns even a bit of throwaway business with a cigarette into a depiction of ennui and frustration).
The judge in the case (the reliable Michael Cochrane), is in full ‘Crown Court’ mode with his address to the jury, benign tolerance and deft handling of his star QCs, and sense of justice. It’s an enjoyable performance.
Even knowing the verdict and ending (I’ve seen both film versions many times), I found the final scene very well acted by Dutton, Cope and Stoltz, and the atmosphere in the chamber was almost of an audience holding it breath.
If I changed one thing, I wouldn’t have incidental music during some points of the trial, but I liked the venue, the scene changes and the fine performances in the great Christie tradition.
Witness for the Prosecution continues at County Hall. I utilised TodayTix to get a heavily discounted ticket, but a range of options for seating are available, including galleries.
Production photo credits by Ellie Kurttz.