Picture of inside the

Photo by Zandile Maseko.

An Ethical Pendulum: Witness for the Prosecution

A review of Lucy Bailey’s production of Agatha Cristie’s 1953 play.

The director Lucy Bailey has taken this courthouse’s original form and transformed its staging to create the most theatrical and explosive performance at the Southbank County Hall in London.

When watching the performance, I was unsure what to expect as this was the first Agatha Christie play I got the pleasure of viewing – and it was nothing short of wonderful. The plot follows a respected lawyer’s (Sir Wilfried Robarts played by Jonathan Firth) troubles when trying to stand up for a client (Leonard Vole played by Joe McNamara) whose wife (Romaine Vole by Emer McDaid) finds difficulty when it comes to telling the truth, testimonies by many witnesses begs to question one’s ethical obligation.  

In my life of appreciating strong female characters, there are only a few that truly embodies this quote, “I don’t like to see girls wasting their talents. You are both clever… and if you have brains, you ought to use them. It isn’t good for women to be ignored and sidelined.”Robin Stevens Quotes (Author of Murder Most Unladylike) I see this through Emer McDaid’s performance of Romaine Vole; from her first entrance, she commands the room and holds the energy perfectly. She exudes the same power as what I imagine Shakespeare’s own Lady Macbeth would have, and I think that statement alone explains what one would expect when seeing Romaine Vole’s character on stage.

Photo by Zandile Maseko

Also, Joe McNamara’s West End debut of the role of Leonard Vole does need a considerate amount of credit. At the beginning of the play, I found the characters’ naivety and innocence quite annoying. The character tended to be highly emotional and make grand exclamations of how he is innocent, notably when his ‘spouse’ shockingly testified against him. Leonard’s instability of his emotions made it harder to understand the character as I only saw him in great unnecessary extremes. However, after the trial, when he has announced not guilty, the character experienced a 180 turn, and his true form was revealed as he indeed was guilty of murder. His exterior changed, having a more confident posture, smoking a cigar. This left me feeling more unsettled than his stoic-like persona before. I started to question if I could sense the unstable nature of his character’s persona that annoyed me with the false reality the character was creating? The persona of seeing him as an ignorant child. 

      Photo by Zandile Maseko

The harmony between lighting and special effects. The ability to transform the fixed structure of the courthouse to multiple locations that appear within the play (the docklands, the lawyer’s office) enabled the audience to immerse themselves clearly into the different areas. This adds to Agatha Christie’s intention to deceive the audience, which Bailey successfully achieved by Bailey. 

But I mainly wrote this review to appeal to younger audiences of colour, as I was the only black woman in the audience. I found it quite shocking that not many individuals around my age range and race attend. So, I leave the readers with this: if you love series such as How to get away with Murder, Scandal or Suits, this play will remedy wishing to be in the same atmosphere as the shows mentioned before.

Photo by Zandile Maseko


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