Before becoming one of Britain’s most prolific writers, John Mortimer spent nearly 40 years as a successful barrister. Mortimer is best known to British audiences for his BBC television series Rumpole of the Bailey, which generated a series of spin-offs from novels to radio programmes.
The first play of the double bill, entitled The Dock Brief, sees Fox take on the role of an incompetent barrister who is asked to represent a man who confesses to having killed his wife. Courtroom chaos ensues as their elaborate and theatrical defence begins to fall apart. The second play, Edwin, follows a retired High Court Judge as he attempts to give up the habit of holding imaginary court trials in his mind and turns his attentions to his wife’s mysterious friendship with a next door neighbour.
Critics agreed that this “elegantly constructed piece” was “delightfully old-fashioned”, but disagreed on whether that was a good or a bad thing. With regards to leading man Edward Fox, while all agreed that “technically, this is a brilliant performance”, some regarded the actor as a “social relic” who gave “off the whiff of the museum”. On the other hand, others were full of praise for Fox’s “great comic talents” and had nothing but admiration for his “potty planet of otherworldliness”. There were also good mentions for the “earthbound, highly effective performances of Woodeson and Adams” and for Christopher Morahan’s direction.
- by Kate Jackson