THE WITNES FOR THE PROS­E­CU­TION

ACORN ME­DIA OUT NOW

Crime Scene - - CONTENTS - By AN­DRE PAINE

A new Agatha Christie from the team be­hind the bru­tal And Then There Were None.

If you thought 2015’ s And Then There Were None was a de­li­ciously dark Agatha Christie adap­ta­tion, that was a just a primer for the bleakly com­pelling The Wit­ness For The Pros­e­cu­tion. Pro­duced by the same team, in­clud­ing writer Sarah Phelps, both of the bru­tal BBC minis­eries shat­ter any pre­con­cep­tions of Christie cosi­ness.

For the two-part Wit­ness, Phelps has aug­mented the orig­i­nal short story with a con­vinc­ing First World War back­ground. And where Christie gave us a s ting in the tail, this goes even fur­ther with a gen­uinely shock­ing fi­nale.

A ro­man­tic pre­lude to the le­gal drama takes place in the trenches in Bel­gium – an un­likely place for a cou­ple to fall in love. Sev­eral years later, in 1923, Aus­trian show­girl Ro­maine Heil­ger (An­drea Rise­bor­ough) and English chancer Leonard Vole (Billy Howle) are liv­ing to­gether in Lon­don. But he’s soon en­joy­ing a dal­liance with a wealthy older wo­man, Emily French (Kim Cat­trall), much to the con­ster­na­tion of the so­ci­ety lady’s needy maid (Mon­ica Dolan).

When French is found with her head bashed in – and the Per­sian cat pad­ding through the pud­dle of blood – Leonard is the chief sus­pect. French had re­cently changed her will in his favour; case closed, it seems. Leonard in­sists that Ro­maine’s al­ibi will save him, though she has other ideas .

The com­bi­na­tion of Agatha Christie and court­room drama could have been hoary fare. But while the le­gal me­chan­ics re­main vi­tal to the plot, this sin­u­ous s tory is also rich in psy­cho­log­i­cal depth, from the griev­ing so­lic­i­tor John May­hew (Toby Jones) to the be­guil­ing Ro­maine.

Ju­lian Jar­rold’s bold, stylish di­rec­tion cap­tures the for­bid­ding at­mos­phere of a 1920s court­room, while Lon­don’s murky haze mir­rors the malev­o­lent plot de­tails. The Wit­ness For The Pros­e­cu­tion may in­dulge in sex and gore in a way that Christie would never have dared decades ear­lier, but her unerring de­pic­tion of e vil is right at the heart of this dev­as­tat­ing drama.

There’s noth­ing cosy in this tale of dam­aged peo­ple in a bro­ken world.

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