Witnessing an Agatha Christie triumph
A trip to London last weekend turned into an Agatha Christie fest. On the Friday night we saw a superb production of her play, Witness for the Prosecution, performed in the very grand surroundings of London County Hall.
Located on the Thames, next to the London Eye, County Hall houses two hotels, restaurants and attractions such as the The London Dungeon and London Sea Life aquarium. Since 2017, the old council chamber itself has been given a new lease of life, taking on the role of the Old Bailey for one of Agatha Christie's most famous works.
Dougie and I didn't know the play beforehand. I'm not sure how this had passed us by but it certainly helped not knowing what to expect. I made sure to keep away from Google so as not to be tempted to check on the synopsis.
We chose seats in the courtroom stalls, very near to the jury box and within spitting distance (literally) of the stage where the barristers pound the floor, teasing the truth out of the witnesses.
It was such an immersive experience. We sat on large red leather chairs which had speakers at our shoulders, transmitting the backgrounds whisperings you would expect in a real courtroom. All of the seats in this area have great views of the action. There are also seats in the galleries but access to them is via steep stairs so not good if you have mobility issues or suffer from vertigo.
If you want to be part of the proceedings, you can buy VIP tickets to be a member of the jury. Be prepared to swear an oath and give your decision - guilty or not guilty - to your foreman.
As we walked back to our hotel, we were both enthused by the play. The setting made such a difference to the overall experience. It made me realise how our own local drama groups can think outside the box to find relevant venues for productions. St Nicolas Players, for instance, are taking their courtroom drama, The Vigil, to three local churches in the run up to Easter.
Our second dose of Agatha Christie? The following night, exhausted from a day spent in London, we decided on an early night. We ate at five, grabbed some wine, crisps and chocolate from a nearby supermarket, then headed back to the hotel. From the comfort of our big squashy bed, we surfed the channels on the TV and found the recent blockbuster film, Murder on the Orient Express.
Once we'd got over the shock of seeing Kenneth Branagh's extraordinary moustache, entering each scene a few seconds before the rest of him, it turned out to be another enjoyable, twisting whodunnit.
But, despite the stunning visuals and a whole host of top class actors, it didn't come close to creating the excitement we felt at London County Hall. Live theatre is incomparable.
You can read Trish's blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk