Legal Fictions

Posted on: 31 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

A witty double-bill by John Mortimer, writer of Rumpole of the Bailey, starring Edward Fox.

The law can make an ass of us all would appear to be the message delivered by John Mortimer's double bill of legal dramas revived under the title Legal Fictions (Savoy Theatre), and directed by Christopher Morahan.

In The Dock Brief an incompetent barrister is asked to represent the lugubrious Mr Fowle who confesses to murdering his jovial wife. Although the two of them rehearse a masterly defence in the cell, when they reach the courtroom everything goes horribly wrong.

Legal Fictions - photo: Nobby ClarkIn Edwin retired High Court Judge Fennimore Truscott can't break the habit of trying as many people as he can - in his imagination. But when he turns his overly suspicious mind towards his wife's friendship with the next door neighbour, he opens up a can of worms.

Both these works began life as radio plays and both are somewhat thin dramatically, but are endowed with a gentle pathos and barbed, judicial wit that divert but struggle to sustain the two-and-a-half hours - with interval - running time.

The first drama also shows its age since, the programme helpfully points out, a dock brief was the name given to the old practice in the criminal court whereby a judge would ask a lawyer sitting in the court to appear without a fee on behalf of the accused who could not afford legal representation; this practice has now been replaced by the Legal Assistance Scheme.

But if these two works appear today more like sketches than actual plays, there is great pleasure to be had watching Edward Fox, making a welcome return to the West End stage, in the roles he seemed born to play, as the barrister in the first and the High Court Judge in the second, bringing an appealing, drawling vulnerability to the characters he so vividly brings to life. Nicholas Woodeson as his main sparring partner and Polly Adams as his wife - in Edwin - lend fine support.

Plays until 26th April 2008.

Laurence Green

Booking Information

Box office: 0870 164 8787 or:

Photos: Nobby Clark

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