Sunday, July 29, 2018

Witness for the Prosecution

A late birthday treat from a younger sister included the Agatha Christie play "Witness for the Prosecution", which on Saturday, was attended by the generous  sister,  with mrs maytrees and myself.

Not having attended an Agatha Christie play for many years, despite "The Mousetrap" being  I believe the longest running play in London,  I was not sure what to expect.

The venue for the play was the old County Hall, the council chamber of which, has been successfully converted to a theatre in the round:

Image result for photos of the council chamber of the old county hall London

The old council debating chamber has been left much as it was during the GLC's time there and was intriguing to be seated in.

The book's original  theme was well followed. A   book website accurately describes the theme as:

1920s London. A murder, brutal and bloodthirsty, has stained the plush carpets of a handsome London townhouse. The victim is the glamorous and enormously rich Emily French. All the evidence points to Leonard Vole, a young chancer to whom the heiress left her vast fortune and who ruthlessly took her life. At least, this is the story that Emily’s dedicated housekeeper Janet Mackenzie stands by in court. Leonard however, is adamant that his partner, the enigmatic chorus girl Romaine, can prove his innocence.

The cast included Richard Clothier who played  the defence counsel Sir Wilfrid Robarts QC, very effectively, the excellent Charlotte Blackledge and Harry Reid who played the alleged murderer and 'wife' excellently. I also appreciated the court judge Mr Justice Wainwright played true to life by Julian Curry who  I think had  legal acting experience in that great, albeit somewhat aged, TV programme "Rumpole of the Bailey."

Interestingly in the intimate seating arrangements in the old Greater London Council/ILEA debating chamber  one was faced by exit doors showing the "ayes" and "neys" for councillors' voting in the days when the  huge building housed London's local and educational administrations. These days,  the very much   smaller more compact and newer City Hall, which replaced the old LCC building downstream  a couple of miles along the River Thames, perhaps illustrates how huge and no doubt expensive, our old style bureaucratic local government actually was.

The theatre also engaged  relatively large number of assistants to change the scenery and stage props which they did with impressive efficiency - no mean feat for a small theatre in the round.

One feature of the seating arrangements was a section of some 12 seats near the judge's bench. People occupying those seats were asked to act as the jury and appoint a spokesperson for the verdict. They clearly followed the instructions to the letter though appointed a young girl of I'd guess about 9 years of age to be their spokes person. She announced their verdict brilliantly and much to the delight of the audience.

Mrs maytrees commented that it was good to see so many young people in the audience as often theatre  performances in the afternoon are more popular with the older generation.

An excellent play in an unusual and intriguing historic venue.

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