Visit Us
email us

Who killed Mrs. French?
That is the burning question in Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution and I will fearlessly cool off your anxiety by leading you to the truth.
In the meantime, I will treat you to a few words about the play and the current production of the famous crime drama at the Shaw Festival. I will assume that you don’t know the plot of the play but you have heard that this is one of the best courtroom dramas ever written,
Leonard Vole (Andrew Lawrie) is accused of murdering the rich Mrs. French. The eminent Sir Wilfrid Robarts, QC (Patrick Galligan), agrees to defend him but the chances of getting Vole off the hook look very bleak. The testimony of his wife Romaine Vole (Marla McLean) is not enough to sway the jury but a mysterious woman appears with some incriminating letters written by Mrs. Vole to a lover and that promises to bring in a “not guilty” verdict. Hold your breath.
Director Alistair Newton has opted for an aggressively dark production. The set from Sir Wilfrid’s chambers to the imposing courtroom are black or gray and the costumes with the exception of what Mrs. Vole is wearing are all gray and the lawyers’ robes are of course black. The office of a senior lawyer, including the law books in the back and even the judge’s imposing high bench are all bleak. This is Newton’s creation with Set Designer Karyn McCallum, Costume Designer Judith Bowden and Lighting Designer Siobhan Sleath.
All of this sets the tone for the play and the actors perform in the theatre noir atmosphere created by Newton. Witness is set in London and English accents are de rigueur but on the whole not achieved. Some actors are better than others but we are not quite convinced that we are in a lawyer’s office or a court room in London.
Courtroom scenes are notoriously difficult to stage. We have a great view of the raised, imposing bench with its carved wood where the judge sits as if he were above humanity. But in a courtroom, the accused and the lawyers face the judge and we see their backs. The problem is solved reasonably well in this production. Vole sits with his back to us and the lawyers sit on the side of the judge’s bench. The witnesses sit on the opposite side facing the lawyers. The theatre audience is addressed as if they are the jury and the whole thing works reasonably well, especially considering the small stage of the Royal George Theatre.
We have two QCs, Sir Wilfrid for the defense and Mr. Myers QC (Graeme Somerville) for the prosecution, fighting for their cause with equal competence. We really want Sir Wilfrid to be brilliant and outshine Myers but Galligan lacks the pyrotechnics to achieve legal stardom.
McLean as Mrs. Vole is a clever and conniving German but she did not sound like a German and looked affected and almost a caricature. She wears what must have been a very stylish hat and dress for the period of the play. Lawrie as Leonard Vole was more convincing with the only difficulty being to decide if he is lying or telling the truth.
Shawn Wright doubles in the minor role of a clerk in Sir Wilfrid’s office and the more substantial role of the imposing Justice Wainright that he does well.
The witnesses, Martin Happer as Inspector Hearne, Cheryl Mullings as Dr. Wyatt, Monica Parks as Janet Mackenzie do good work and move the plot to the final twists, surprises and oh my god!
The plot twists of Witness are extraordinary and the play and its adaptations have never failed to amaze and entertain audiences. If you have never seen it, you will be thrilled, if you have seen it, it is still an enjoyable play. As to Newton’s style, you have to decide for yourself.
The fastest way to learn the plot, including the final twists, is for me to tell you how it ends.
But I won’t and you will just have to see the play!
Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie continues in repertory until????? October 13, 2024 at the Royal George Theatre, Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

May 3, 2024
Cultural - Κριτική Καλών Τεχνών

Join Our Newsletter and Get the Latest
Posts to Your Inbox

No spam ever. Read our Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.