Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * *
Cast: Toby Jones, Andrea Riseborough, Billy Howle, Hayley Carmichael, Monica Dolan, Kim Cattrall, David Haig, Miranda Nolan, Charles De’Ath, Dorian Lough, Paul Ready, Tim McMullan, Robert East, Adam Jowett, Andrew Havill, Ted Robins, Reid Anderson, William Atkinson, Grant Crookes, Carla Langley, Paul Dallison, Keith Lomas, Charlotte Mason-Apps, Dennis O’ Donnell, Graham Partington, Nicola-Jayne Wells, Patricia Winker.
Agatha Christie is such a staple of television and film that sometimes it can be hard to overlook or forgive when an adaptation has not quite hit the high marks expected of it, sometimes you have let it wash over you and remember the good times, when a marvellous suspense mystery would have the viewer glowing with anticipation and the television schedules would be moved accordingly.
The trouble with breaking up a decent story over two nights is that it also breaks up the momentum; the challenge is lost, the deep thrill of putting yourself in the detective’s shoes sold out from underneath you and the dark corners of the room illuminated with the bright light of advertising campaigns. It is a fate that hits many but to do it to the Queen of British murder somehow seems despicable and can make what is a staple, a beacon of the genre, nothing more than a bauble for cheap Christmas entertainment.
Witness For The Prosecution should have been a truly gripping drama, one night, one feast for the senses, instead of being presented as two poorly thought of meals containing the left over remains of the festive turkey; an average experience only made bearable by the attention of Toby Jones and Hayley Carmichael in their roles of Mayhew and his un-adoring wife Alice and Miranda Nolan as the over attentive house maid to the murdered party, Janet McIntyre.
Toby Jones takes these roles seriously enough, rarely do you find the actor not appearing to really relishing the part in which he has been entrusted with, and so it is to the lung scared war veteran with a wife who clearly cannot abide the sight of him that he once more excels.
It is a shame that such delightful feasts fall foul of scheduling, of the prime time messing about and instead seem to be the resulting pickings of final sentiment. Witness For The Prosecution was arguably overlooked, ignored as a possible heavy weight contender for the festive ratings and one that really should have been one of the shows of the season, instead it became a mild mannered let down, a true turkey with little substance to keep the attention of anyone sat down hoping for a cracker.
Ian D. Hall