"Witness for the Prosecution"

A Full Length Play by Agatha Christie

Witness for the Prosecution
You will need a number of these wigs for a production of "Witness for the Prosecution.". Ian Waldie

There has been a murder in 1950s England. Miss Emily French, a woman approaching age 60, was found dead in her house on Friday October the 14th. Her housekeeper was away that evening and Miss Emily's  only other friend, Leonard Vole, was the last person to see her alive. The murder occurred at approximately 9:30 at night. Leonard Vole insists he was at his own home at that time, however the housekeeper, Janet Mackenzie, says she heard him speaking with Miss Emily French at 9:25 when Janet briefly returned home to pick up a sewing pattern.

Leonard Vole has retained the services of a solicitor, Mr. Mayhew, and barrister, Sir Wilfred Robarts, QC. Leonard Vole is an extremely likeable man with a story that could either be 1.) the most believable tale of a nice man down on his luck who made friends with an older woman or 2.) the perfect set-up for the chance to inherit close to a million pounds. When Miss Emily French’s last will and testament names Leonard as the sole beneficiary of her estate, it seems Leonard will be found guilty. Only Leonard’s wife, Romaine, has a chance of persuading the jury of Leonard’s innocence. But Romaine has a few secrets and a hidden agenda of her own and she isn’t sharing the details with anyone.

Production Details

Setting: Sir Wilfred Robart’s offices, English Courtroom

Time: 1950s

Cast Size: This play can accommodate 13 actors with numerous non-speaking small roles as the jury and courtroom attendants.

Male Characters: 8

Female Characters: 5

Characters that could be played by either males or females: 0

Content Issues: Stabbing

Roles

Carter is Sir Wilfred’s clerk. He is an older gentleman who prides himself on keeping good time and good order of his boss’s offices.

Greta is Sir Wilfred’s typist. She is described as “adenoidal” and flighty.

She is easily distracted by the people who come into the office, especially if she has read about them in the newspaper.

Sir Wilfred Robarts, QC is the well-respected barrister on Leonard Vole’s case. He prides himself on reading people and their intentions perfectly the first time he meets them. He is knowledgeable and puts genuine effort into each case he tries.

Mr. Mayhew is the solicitor on Leonard Vole’s case. He assists Sir Wilfred in office work and provides another pair of eyes and ears to examine the evidence and consider strategies. His knowledge and opinions are invaluable assets for the case.

Leonard Vole appears to be the all-around good-natured sort of man one would enjoy befriending. He has dreams and aspirations that will not come to fruition in his current financial situation, but he is not a complainer. He has the ability to endear himself to anyone, especially to women.

Romaine is Leonard’s wife. Their marriage is not technically legal, as she is still married (on paper) to a man from her native Germany. Although Leonard insists that Romaine loves him and is devoted to him, she is a difficult woman to read. She has her own agenda and is skeptical that anyone will be able to help her.

Mr. Myers, QC is the prosecuting barrister. He and Sir Wilfred, who often find themselves opposite one other in court, have a contentious relationship and. Both manage to keep civil tongues and behave when they appear in front of the judge, but their mutual animosity is evident.

Mr. Justice Wainwright is the judge in Leonard Vole’s case. He is fair and handles the barristers and witnesses with a firm hand. He is not above inserting his opinion or telling a story if need be.

Janet Mackenzie was Miss Emily French’s housekeeper and companion for twenty years. She has an unyielding personality. She is not charmed by Leonard Vole and has a very dim opinion of him as a person.

Other Smaller Roles and Non-speaking Roles

Inspector Hearne

Plain Clothes Detective

Third Juror

Second Juror

Foreman of the Jury

Court Usher

Clerk of the Court

Alderman

Judge’s Clerk

Court Stenographer

Warder

Barristers (6)

Policeman

Dr. Wyatt

Mr. Clegg

The Other Woman

Production Notes

Set. The two must-have sets for Witness for the Prosecution are Sir Wilfred’s office and the courtroom. For this show – no minimalistic approaches. The sets ought to be built and dressed according to resemble a formal barrister’s office and courtroom of the time period.

Costumes must be period specific and of note are the traditional wigs and robes worn in British courtrooms by the barristers, judges, and solicitors. Because the time span of the play is six weeks, some actors will need several costume changes.

The playwright provides a specific note on doubling up the roles actors may play in order for smaller casts to still achieve the “spectacle” of the courtroom. She offers a template for the roles that may be reduced or be cast by the using the same actor. This template is available in the script offered from Samuel French. However, Christie stresses that the same actress that plays Greta should not play the role of “The Other Woman.” Even though the two characters never appear onstage at the same time, Christie does not want the audience to think that it is part of the plot and that Greta is in fact The Other Woman. Christie goes on to offer suggestions that “local amateurs” be used to fill out the courtroom scene or even that the audience be invited to sit on the stage.

Playwright

Agatha Christie (1890 – 1976) is beloved and renowned mystery writer from England.

She is best known for her novels and such characters as Miss Marple, Hercule Pirot, and Tommy and Tuppence. Her stories focus on mysteries and murder; where the truth is found in the details and the characters are never who they first appear to be. Her play Mousetrap claims the title of longest running play with a production history that spans over 60 years. Agatha Christie is so prolific and popular that only Shakespeare and the Bible have only outsold her works.

Samuel French holds the production rights for Witness for the Prosecution.

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Your Citation
Flynn, Rosalind. ""Witness for the Prosecution"." ThoughtCo, Apr. 29, 2016, thoughtco.com/witness-for-the-prosecution-4039163. Flynn, Rosalind. (2016, April 29). "Witness for the Prosecution". Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/witness-for-the-prosecution-4039163 Flynn, Rosalind. ""Witness for the Prosecution"." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/witness-for-the-prosecution-4039163 (accessed November 21, 2017).