A set can serve many purposes for a show. It is the playwright's initial vision of the backdrop for the action and conflict they create, and it is a designer's way of bringing that across and grounding the play or musical in a space that feels real. But what happens when a play that is set in a courtroom is performed in an actual courtroom?
In the production of Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution, now running at London County Hall, the audience members are no longer observers. Instead they sit on the jury, surrounding the center of the court room, and in the public galleries. And Christie's courtroom drama plays out in the exact place it is set, taking the material to a whole other level.
In this courtroom on the other side of the Thames, far from your typical West End theater, Leonard Vole (Lewis Cope) has been accused of murder and is on trial for his life. The only person who can prove the truth to his alibi is his wife, Romaine (Carolin Stoltz), whom Vole's lawyer Sir Wilfrid (Simon Dutton) is suspicious of, despite his trust in the English judicial system.
As it is a work of Agatha Christie, not too much can be said for fear of ruining the ending. However, her work is blessed with being able to lead the audience down a winding path towards justice, allowing the audience to become entangled in her mystery, leaving many to gasp in shock when a certain testimony is given in the witness box.
The theatricality of Witness for the Prosecution is heightened simply because of the performance space. However, it is with the cast and the creatives of this production that it becomes a breathtaking piece of theater that comes to life in a new and exciting way that is unlike anything else you have ever seen.