Theatre Review: Witness for the Prosecution

By Anna Rogers | 29th June 2015

(c) Theatre Mill

(c) Theatre Mill

You have been summoned for jury service. Theatre Mill, a professional company of high calibre have certainly gone all out on their stunning production of an Agatha Christie gem Witness for the Prosecution. The courtroom drama marks the 125th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth. The play brought to life in a fresh and memorable fashion like no other.

As you enter the aptly grand building, The Guildhall, you are invited into a world of harsh lights, rules, oaths, lies and truths where everyone is on trial not just the accused. The creative placing of the audience means you are thrown into the banter of the courtroom and often question if you are watching a play. The realism in the performances and surroundings make it hard to distinguish between reality and the world of performance, a subject Agatha Christie questions heavily in Witness for the Prosecution. The play centres on the accused, the fraught and naive Leonard Vole, beautifully played by Niall Costigan who is on trial for the apparent murder of Miss Emily French. The story grippingly unfolds through the testimonies of those most closely linked to the case; the deceased Miss French’s brash elderly companion and housekeeper Janet Mackenzie, played by Pam Hilton; the Medical Examiners and Inspectors and Vole’s mysteriously cold wife Romaine, outstandingly played by Rachel Logan. In true Jury service style we hear the versions of all the witnesses and are forced to come to our own opinions and finally decide did Leonard Vole really do it?

The attention to detail is what really makes this production a huge success, not to mention an incredibly strong cast of talent where no-one can be faulted.

The attention to detail is what really makes this production a huge success, not to mention an incredibly strong cast of talent where no-one can be faulted, with the likes of Gordon Kane, playing Sir Wilfred Robarts Q.C whose stance and professionalism allows him to own the room, commanding respect from his likeable honest nature. In stark comparison, courtroom weasel, Barrister Mr Myers Q.C; superbly played by Clive Moore, depicts the pretentious theatrics commonly associated with the courtroom. Light comedy is also present in the form of sweet but dim natured secretary Greta, played by Lowenna Melrose, who flits in and out the room to listen in on the gossip of the case. The highlight of comedic talent though is Tom Jackson who portrays Inspector Hearne and Mr Clegg wonderfully in his detailed mannerisms and comical ticks. The shining star of the production is without a doubt Rachel Logan, her portrayal of the cold and callous wife to devoted Vole is remarkably strong and she holds the attention of the audience wholly each time she takes to the stage.

Performances are the heart of this production – who is telling the truth? Together Theatre Mill and Agatha Christie challenge us on the initial judgements we make on a person. Things are not always what they seem is the echoing message - the grumbling and bitter housekeeper Janet, the cruel and heartless wife Romaine and the desperate innocent Vole. Witness for the Prosecution is full of unexpected twists and turns that will keep you fixed on the edge of your seat and transport you to a world where nothing is what it seems.
You can catch this must- see production at York Guildhall until the 12 July and at Leeds Civic Hall from 28 July to 30 August.

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