"We play the silent jurors, participants in the trial of the young, shiftless Leonard Vole"Poster/ Leah Palmer

There’s lots to like about The Might Players' recent staging of Agatha Christie's courtroom drama Witness for the Prosecution. Director Sam Bell has the audience in the pews of Selwyn college chapel, where we play the silent jurors, participants in the trial of the young, shiftless Leonard Vole. In later scenes, we watch the Crown prosecutor (Ariel Hebditch) and the defence (Tasmin Sarkany) square-off as they conduct cross-examinations of a diverse line-up of characters. It’s up to us to decide if Vole is guilty of the murder of the wealthy Mrs French.

It is the first time in years that a production has been staged at the Selwyn college chapel. It’s a strikingly beautiful venue, with echoing acoustics appropriate for a dramatic court show-down. Unfortunately, the majority of the action takes place on the platform near the top of the chapel, which means that the actors’ faces are at times partially obscured. The clarity of lines is also sometimes lost in the jump between the action on stage and the pew-bound audience. The choice of venue is a great idea, and could make for an engaging, audience-centric production, if only more of the drama had been brought between the pews.

"a strikingly beautiful venue, with echoing acoustics appropriate for a courtroom show-down"

Not the least of the productions’ successes are the lovely performances delivered by a well-rounded cast. Isabella Ren is particularly good as Romaine, Vole’s suspicious wife. She gets across Romaine’s haughty elegance at once with a few small, well-considered gestures and a disdainful expression, and effectively carries off her character’s deadpan humour (“Men, I often think, are very stupid”).

Tasmin Sarkany as Sir Wilfred, Vole's solicitor, keeps the show nicely focused and delivers her lengthly courtroom speeches with plenty of authority and conviction. Another obvious stand-out is Monika Chowaniek as Greta, Sir Wilfred’s typist, who gets a laugh every time she bustles on stage to offer tea or a bright word of wisdom. Again, it’s a shame we couldn’t appreciate the finer details of these precise characterisations at a shorter distance. One of the production’s sharpest moments occurred when the Crown prosecutor swept down the chapel aisle to address the audience personally: Ariel Hebditch delivered her short speech with a cold clarity, laying out the case for the prosecution. Evidently, the cast had the potential to deliver great stuff, and they should all be given credit for pulling off the wordy script.

Credit should also be given to the lighting team, who used the gravity of the chapel setting to their advantage. Callum Bruce and Emily Britz’s choice of dramatic red lighting between scenes was effective. Hung with heavy, bloody shadows, the chapel had a brooding, sinister appeal that built our anticipation as the show drew to its conclusion.

“Lovely performances delivered by a well-rounded cast”

Of course, no performance should lay claim to Agatha Christie’s name without successfully pulling off her trademark twist. In this case, Sam Bell’s execution of the Act 3 plot-swerve was very inventive. The play’s final moments had the audience wide-eyed and incredulous, which is exactly the sort of response that every faithful production of her work hopes to elicit.


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Witness for the Prosecution was playing on Friday 4th March and Saturday 5th March at Selwyn College Chapel.