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Book of the Month

Book of the Month: Witness for the Prosecution

1st September 2017

Leonard Vole stands in the dock, accused of murder. His wife can prove his innocence but when she takes the stand she denies his alibi. Can he escape the hangman’s noose?

Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution has been thrilling audiences since the early 1950s. The play started life as a short story, The Witness for the Prosecution, which Christie wrote only five years into her career as a published author. Almost thirty years later theatre producer Peter Saunders approached her, suggesting that she should adapt the short story into a courtroom drama for the stage. At first, she declined suggesting that if he wanted to turn it into a play then he would have to do so himself! But she soon changed her mind after being disappointed with his version and within a few weeks she had written her own.

Naturally, the plot had to undergo some changes from the short story, which included the ending. Initially Christie was met with resistance to her ending, but after fighting desperately to keep it, it was finally accepted – and rightfully so. Despite her initial hesitation to writing it in the first place, Witness for the Prosecution proved to be one of Christie’s personal favourites. ‘The play has given me enormous enjoyment in writing, and I do hope that the repertory companies who do it will derive the same pleasure from it.’

In October 1953, the play opened at the Winter Garden Theatre in London’s West End and was a success from the get go.  Reminiscing of the play’s first night in her autobiography, Christie claimed it was ‘the only first night I have enjoyed,’ going on to say, ‘I was happy, radiantly happy, and made even more so by the applause of the audience.’ The praise wasn’t only limited to herself and the audience, but received glowing reviews from the press too.

"Once more the Christie conjuring trick has come off. Once more we have been led down the garden path.” The Daily Telegraph

This month Witness for the Prosecution is our Book of the Month. Join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter to tell us your own review of Agatha Christie’s thrilling courtroom drama.

(Image supplied by The Christie Archive Trust)

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