An Abingdon, Oxfordshire, Drama Group
Witness for the Prosecution
125 years after Agatha Christie’s birth, BreakaLeg Productions have brought Witness for the Prosecution to life again in the wonderful Unicorn Theatre’s Abbey buildings. Courtroom dramas are not Christie’s normal milieu, but the play displays all of her usual deviousness. The set-up of the plot is simple; did Leonard Vole, who had befriended an ‘old’ woman (actually 56, which doesn’t make her old in my book!), thump her over the back of the head with a very solid object – or not? The evidence is against him, but Sir Wilfred Robarts is determined to prove him innocent.
I will not say anymore about the story, because plot is central to any Christie story. Like any conjuror, Christie employs every trick in the book to lead and deceive her audience. In this case we, the audience, became the jury too. We are directly appealed to from time to time by the barristers in court. At one stage I thought I had finally seen through the web of confusion. I even told my wife so at the second adjournment for the drinks (and toilet). But of course I hadn’t. That’s the pleasure of reading or watching Christie – however hard you try, she will beat you to that final punch.
There were a few nerves apparent in the cast early on, but soon the play took a firm grip of all us jurors. Jim Cotterell was a very convincing Leonard Vole, somewhat pathetic and simple, but he eventually won us over and we were soon rooting for him. Janie Eyre-Brook was excellent as his wife Romaine and there was strong support from the battling courtroom lawyers (Paul Barrand and Richard Damerell). In the witness box, Viv Beckett gave a fine performance as the house-keeper Janet – and managed to maintain a fine Scottish accent throughout!
Exchanging thoughts with others during the second loo-break, it was clear the rest of the audience were enjoying it thoroughly and were like me in several minds at once. So if you like pitting yourself against the mistress of the crime puzzle, do go along to the Unicorn Theatre. But make sure you disconnect your internet connection immediately to prevent yourself doing any sneaky checking of the plot in advance - that really wouldn’t be playing the game!
Peter Tickler (Daily Info Reviewer), 10/09/15