Agatha Christie thriller Witness for the Prosecution reopening at London County Hall

Monday 13th September 2021 08:15 BST

Witness For The Prosecution, a play which she adapted from her novel Traitor's Hands, will reopen in London this week, after being shut down with the rest of the theatre sector last March.

It is staged in the former council chambers at London County Hall near the London Eye, and is a classic whodunnit.

The opening also has more significance - with the mock courtroom venue welcoming back audiences on the day before what would have been Christie's 131st birthday.

It's something Christie's great-grandson James Prichard called a "nice moment".

Speaking to Sky News, he also said it was more or less, exactly 18 months since the show last performed, and stressed the importance of getting people back into performance spaces.

Talking about the play in particular, Mr Prichard said: "She adapted her own short story, which she'd written actually in the early 1920s for the stage to make it into Witness For The Prosecution.

"There were some early adaptations of her books that other people did and she didn't really like those, and one of the reasons is she didn't think that they were risky or adventurous enough.

"A lot of the short story is similar to the play, but there are some significant changes and particularly the end - and I'm not going to do any spoilers because I don't do those kind of things - but she was very, very proud of the ending of Witness For The Prosecution."

Mr Prichard, who also runs the Agatha Christie Company, said that being a relative of the revered crime writer was "extraordinary", but admits when he was younger, it was a link he was "embarrassed" about.

"Certainly as I've grown older and actually certainly as I've got more involved in the business, I am proud of that fact and I am proud of her.

"The more I get to understand her and respect her, and the more I engage with her work, the more amazed I am with her genius and what she managed to produce. It's a very extraordinary thing.

"It's obviously a very privileged thing, it does come with responsibilities, but... running these businesses is a lot of fun, it's really interesting and it allows you to get involved in all sorts of different things with all sorts of different and interesting people."

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He called Christie a "lovely, lovely grandmother in all senses of the word" when reflecting on his memories of her, but added his father had the closest relationship.

"I always tease him that he was probably the most spoilt grandchild of the 20th century, and I don't just mean that financially - she was incredibly kind to him.

"She introduced him to opera, taking him all around the world to watch that, trying to introduce him to Shakespeare, which he always says was a failure.

"I have grown up with this overarching view of her as a phenomenal woman."

The person tasked with bringing this piece of work to the stage is Lucy Bailey, who directs the show.

She told Sky News that the reason we still love Christie's work some 50 years after her death comes down to the way "she also gets under the skin of these characters".

"She puts very, very interesting people in her novels," she said.

"People who who can lie and lie and lie and charm and charm and charm, we all fall in love with her characters."

She added there is "something that is so attractive in creating the sort of dark underworld we all love to be terrified of, of the possibilities in all of us to do or to commit murder or step over a boundary".

"She does just look at humankind pretty ferociously and say we have a capacity to kill."

On encouraging audiences to come back into the theatre, Bailey says the play is "great entertainment".

"You sit on the edge of your seat, you feel you have a very different experience from the normal theatregoing experience because you are part of the court and you're almost part of that decision - whether someone is guilty or not is a great piece of suspense."

Witness For The Prosecution opens at London County Hall on 14 September.

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