Lucy Bailey’s site-specific production of Christie’s courtroom drama has returned to London County Hall, after a lengthy, if unplanned adjournment, and remains one of the most effective theatrical settings in London. Transforming the council chambers into the Old Bailey sees the audience sat in a horseshoe configuration around a central stage, as a the trial of Leonard Vole unfolds before us. And as is customary with Christie, there is a murder charge to be answered. Leonard Vole (Joe McNamara) stands accused of the murder of Emily French, a wealthy old lady. He has no alibi, save for the testimony of his loving wife, Romaine (Emer McDaid). But when she appears reluctant to testify in his favour, his chances of being exonerated grow even slimmer, and it begins to look like forces are conspiring to ensure he is found guilty. As Leonard is slowly broken down by the prosecution (a commanding performance from Miles Richardson), all hope seems to be lost. But it wouldn’t be Agatha Christie if it were that straightforward. As more facts come to light in the case, the truth seems to get further and further away from view.
A cast of 18 keep the action moving, assisting with scene changes as well as providing a variety of witnesses and experts to give testimony. The action may feel a little sedate at times, especially compared to the theatrical rhythms of 2021, but Christie knows when to make it count – the denouement is among her finest. A chance to witness the master at work.