Review: Witness for the Prosecution, at County Hall
05 October, 2018 — By Paul Cowling
Harry Reid plays Leonard Vole in Witness for the Prosecution. Photo: Ellie Kurttz
THE lights dim, and the accused is hauled before a judge – his red gown and black cap soon to mete out death by hanging on Leonard Vole.
But as swift as the sentence is passed, so is a sudden scene change. The ensemble dressed in brown removal-firm coats kick out a roll of carpet and set up opulent trappings as we are shifted back to the chambers of Sir Wilfred Robarts QC.
Sir Wilfred – played with convincing upper-crust suavity by Richard Clothier – doesn’t look down at cheeky-chappie Vole – but is rather his equal as he sets about trying to get Vole off the charge of murdering the rich widow, Emily French.
You never see Ms French – nor do you see the act of murder carried out. But Vole (played assuredly by former EastEnders actor Harry Reid) looks buried. According to Sir Wilfred, Vole, he “lives in a flat above a shop in Euston and is of little means”.
Then there is the testimony of the star witness for the prosecution – none other than Vole’s German refugee wife, Romaine. But, have we really seen the end of Leonard Vole, or is there a turn of events?
Lucy Phelps plays the comically carefree Romaine with ease, though I can’t help thinking her salon-styled hair, slanted beret, high heels and belted waist-length leather coat are a tad out of keeping for late 1940s London.
But what is undeniable is the wonderful setting: County Hall’s mottled-marble, octagonal chamber is the perfect setting for this Agatha Christie courtroom classic. The echoes of the ushers as they call a witness, and the piped gasps of the gallery, have you thinking you are in the Old Bailey itself. This is a must-see for anyone, and tourists – particularly Americans – will simply love looking at a traditional slice of British life, even if we don’t ’ang ’em anymore.
County Hall Belvedere Road, SE1 7PB
Booking until March 31, 2019
0844 815 7141
020 7503 1646