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25th Mar 2024

Classic Agatha Christie thriller gets fresh twist by Irish group


Agatha Christie

“It was Agatha Christie’s favourite play.”

With the lives of the Knives Out series, a return to the big screen for Agatha Christie classics and the Harlan Coben run on Netflix, murder mysteries are enjoying quite the resurgence. An Irish theatre company celebrating a big anniversary, this year, is leaning into that genre with a new twist on a much-loved tale.

Sandyford Little Theatre Company is celebrating their 90th anniversary across 2024, writes Aoife White. Brendan Phlean is directing and producing Witness for the Prosecution, which runs at Dundrum’s Mill Theatre from April 16 to 20. 

Phelan spoke to JOE about the milestone and how the rehearsals are going, with the show hitting the stage in just under a month. “It is 90 years since the official start up of the group being called the Sandyford Little Theater Company but, prior to that, it was a fit-up theatre group.

“It would have traveled all over Ireland, dropping into little villages and towns where there wouldn’t have been a network of local theatres. This group would pop up on a flat space of a village green and put up a small theatre – with lights, costumes and whatever props were needed – do a series of little shows, collect the money, hop back into the van, and away they go. That was how Sandyford started and that’s really what we’re celebrating. This is the 9oth anniversary of when they settled down.” 

Witness for the Prosecution written by Agitha Christie in 1925 but was originally called ‘Traitors Hands’. It was published in a magazine, at the time, called Flynns and was later changed to Witness for the Prosecution, in 1933. It was first performed on stage in 1953, in London. The latest version hits the stage in The Mill Theatre, next month. Phelan is excited to see what the public makes of his group’s take on the classic.

Screen versions (on TV and in cinemas) have been frequent, over the years with actors such as Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Toby Jones, Diana Rigg and Kim Cattrall taking on the various roles.

“It was Agatha Christie’s favourite play,” notes Phelan. Given that the prolific author and playwright is responsible for gems like Murder on The Orient Express, Death on The Nile and The Mousetrap, that is quite the endorsement.

Agatha Christie

Witness for the Prosecution is a courtroom drama, with comedic elements with a “few unusual twists” throughout. Phelan expanded on the plot, without giving away too many of those twists and turns. “There has been a murder,” he says, “and there is an accuser. It is just the case of, ‘Did he do it?’ Little clues will get revealed from time to time and you will also find some things you might have missed.” 

“I’m very happy with where it is,” he continues. “I’ve been involved in shows that don’t really come together until close to the finishing line. But we’re a month out and it’s looking good. I was just getting texts from people in the last week saying, ‘Wow, I can really see where this is coming together’. There are so many different parts to it, and lots of them are quite strange and unusual in themselves. But we’re at the stage now where we’re starting to piece the individual sections together, and you go, ‘Yeah, I see how that all fits in’. So now I’m very delighted with it.”

For more details on Witness for the Prosecution, check out The Mill Theatre website, right here

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