BBC One has ordered The Witness For The Prosecution, a two-part adaptation of the Agatha Christie short story of the same name from The Casual Vacancy scribe Sarah Phelps, Poldark indie Mammoth Screen and Agatha Christie Productions, TVWise has learned.
The Witness For The Prosecution is set in the 1920s and opens shortly after a brutal murder has taken place in a London townhouse. The victim is the glamorous and enormously rich Emily French. All the evidence points to Leonard Vole, a young chancer to whom the heiress left her vast fortune and who ruthlessly took her life. At least, this is the story that Emily’s dedicated housekeeper Janet Mackenzie stands by in court. Leonard however, is adamant that his partner, the enigmatic chorus girl Romaine, can prove his innocence.
The short story was originally published in 1925 and was subsequently adapted as a stage play and feature film in the 1950s. The two-part adaptation is being penned by Sarah Phelps, whose numerous credits include the The Casual Vacancy and the upcoming J.K. Rowling adaptation The Cormoran Strike Mysteries. This is the second Christie property that she has tackled for BBC One after previously adapting And Then There Were None for the channel, which aired last Christmas.
“With the long terrible shadow of the Great War falling across the rackety, feral 1920s, The Witness For The Prosecution is a compelling story of deceit, desire, murder, money and morality, innocence and guilt, heartbreak and – most painful and dangerous of all – love” Phelps said in a statement. “At the centre of this dark and tangled net is the astonishing character of Romaine, a noir heroine for all our times.”
Mammoth Screen – the ITV owned indie behind such dramas as Poldark, And Then There Were None and Endeavour – are co-producing the drama with Agatha Christie Productions. Acorn Media Enterprises and A+E Studios are also both on-board for the production, with Acorn’s streaming service Acorn TV set to air the two-part drama in the United States. The executive producers are James Prichard, Hilary Strong, Karen Thrussell, Damien Timmer, Sarah Phelps and Matthew Read. The Crown helmer Julian Jarrold is attached to direct.
The Witness For The Prosecution emanates from a deal the BBC struck with Agatha Christie Limited which saw the PSB become the home to all future Christie adaptations. The relationship has already been a fruitful one, having led to such shows as Partners In Crime and three-part serial And Then There Were None. “Sarah Phelps’ brilliantly original take on The Witness For The Prosecution continues our very special relationship with Agatha Christie on BBC One”, said the BBC’s Controller of Television Channels and iPlayer Charlotte Moore, who ordered the adaptation.
“And Then There Were None made a huge impact last year, garnering great reviews and audiences of over 8 million. We’re thrilled to be reunited with Sarah Phelps as she takes on another iconic title, an incendiary courtroom drama that will keep you guessing right to the very end”, added Mammoth Screen’s Karen Thrussell, who serves as an executive producer on the two-parter. “The source material is so strong, and we hope the end result will be every bit as striking as And Then There Were None.”