WHAT: Witness for the Prosecution
WHERE: Shambles Theatre
WHEN: June 23 to 27, July 1 to 3. Check theatre website for times and ticket sales
Aficionados of classic courtroom dramas are in for a thrill over the next couple of weeks.
Agatha Christie's wonderfully suspense-filled Witness for the Prosecution is at full throttle on stage at the Shambles Theatre with a home town cast that's giving it their all.
That's no small ask when some mighty stage and film names have starred in this work the queen of twentieth century crime writing penned as a short story ninety six years ago. Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton were principal players in the 1950s screen version.
The production Rotorua is privileged to see has moved with the times. Christie's original defence counsel Wilfred Robarts Kings' Counsel has become Lady Winifred Robarts Queen's Counsel, Scotland Yard is now New Scotland Yard, and arresting officer Inspector Hearne is another who's had a gender switch in recognition of women in today's workforce.
The setting remains unchanged with the courtroom scenes played out in the Old Bailey.
It's there the youthful Leonard Vole is on trial for murdering rich spinster Emily French. Western Heights High Year 12 student Ashton Kusabs wears the character like a second skin.
Voles' German wife Romaine (Helene Nicholson) is icy cool as she switches allegiances to the prosecution's side of the case. What chance does Vole stand with her compelling evidence against him?
It will be a major feat if Greg Davis as prosecuting counsel Myers has any voice left by the season's end. His delivery comes at top volume as he attempts to convince the jury of Vole's guilt.
But he's up against formidable opposition, Lady Winifred Robarts (Rachael Bell) has a last minute scar-faced trump card to counter him.
Both are convincing facsimiles of the real life wig and gown brigade. Tasked with a multitude of lines to deliver, neither falter.
The remainder of the cast are equally credible. A salute to Shambles stalwarts Martin Hampson as presiding Justice Wainwright and Jill Horne playing the murder victim's housekeeper Janet MacKenzie. Ian Stabler as instructing solicitor John Mayhew is making his eleventh Shambles appearance.
Their expertise is inspirational for those with less theatre time to call on. The balance between the two has been cleverly crafted by seasoned director Richard Rugg.
Delving into the plot's zigzagging switchbacks would be the ultimate spoiler.
Suffice to say after the verdict's delivery the preview night audience were left guessing right to the final scene who really "dun it".
- Jill Nicholas