THE WITNES FOR THE PROSECUTION
ACORN MEDIA OUT NOW
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.