“Witness for the Prosecution”:https://www.witnesscountyhall.com/, the Agatha Christie mystery, opened at County Hall in mid-October and having booked tickets months ago, we were delighted to read good reviews.
Rather than a theatre, the council chambers of the former County Hall, have been turned into the Old Bailey. It’s a brilliant use of space and comes complete with Jury Box and public gallery.
We decided to be extravagant and book seats in the front row of the Jury Box which were right next to the Judge. We were pleased we had as the six seats in the back row, were quite a way behind us and the same price (£95) – we also got complimentary drinks (wine, beer or a soft drink) both before and at the interval and a programme.
We were advised to be in our seats early to be briefed by the court usher who asked us all to swear-in on the bible. My friend thought she’d be a little awkward and asked if she could affirm, to be told politely but firmly that affirming wasn’t around in 1953 when the play was set. We all had a small black notebook and pencil and were told we could take notes if we wanted. The lady next to the judge was asked if she’d be jury foreman which would involve standing when requested and reading out the verdict – I’d have loved to have done this.
The play was excellent and not having read the book, we didn’t know how things would turn out and now is not the place to reveal the outcome. The cast was largely unknown to me although one was Philip Franks, the Prosecution QC, who was the tax man in Darling Buds of May. I also recognised the rather silver fox, David Yelland who from our programme has been in lots of TV dramas. Mr Justice Wainwright was played by Patrick Godfrey who bore a striking resemblance to an old fuddy-duddy judge.
The big leather seats looked very comfortable in the horse-shoe shaped auditorium but those in the public gallery looked very high and steep. However, for those not good at standing, there were no seats in either of the two bars, although a couple were soon found for an elderly lady.
We were able to take photographs both before and after the performance which we did although, having tried to get a picture of me in the Judge’s chair, I was told it was out of bounds.
Whilst I suspect this play may not last as long as The Mousetrap, it’s well worth seeing, especially in such fabulous surroundings.