County Hall, London – until 1 September 2019
Witness For The Prosecution is a glorious fusion of classic storytelling, first class production values and top-notch acting. Set amidst the oak-panelled Edwardian Baroque of the (now disused) County Hall Chamber, the Old Bailey is re-created to host a cracking yarn of a murder mystery, courtroom drama.
At risk of spoiling, the plot will not even be outlined. Suffice to say that there is skulduggery, passion, and twists and turns that will make even the seasoned theatre-goer gasp in surprise as the story unfolds. The show is very 1950s in its style, costumes, mannerisms and dialogue – and a delight of the piece is that one does not have to think too hard. The cast delivers the narrative delightfully, and at times it is as if a film-noir is being screened in person. Such is the cynicism of our times that the script can occasionally seem a little corny – but actually, the deliciously dated nuance only adds to the evening’s charm.
Lucy Bailey has coaxed magic from her newly-installed replacement cast. Jasper Britton is Sir Wilfred Robarts QC, opposite prosecutor and professional nemesis Mr Myers QC, played by William Chubb. Britton’s Robarts is a gem – a patrician who nonetheless is acutely aware of the details of the world around him. His unravelling of the facts he encounters is fresh and vibrant, and one cannot help but grin at such a well polished turn that never once descends into pastiche.
There is fine work too from Daniel Solbe as the hapless Leonard Vole, facing the noose if found guilty, together with a perfectly poised performance from Emma Rigby as his mysterious European wife Romaine. That both Solbe and Rigby are amongst a quartet of the show’s players who are making their West End debuts, speaks volumes for the current cohort of actors entering the profession.
There are smaller treats too amongst the company. Ewan Stewart plays Vole’s believably gritty brief, Christopher Ravenscroft is every inch an Old Bailey judge, while Joanna Brookes’ Janet Mackenzie, the murder victim’s housekeeper, is a Scottish dour delight
Bailey’s direction is only enhanced by William Dudley’s imaginative design. Witness For The Prosecution is a quirky, quintessentially English drama that makes for a thrilling night at the theatre.