Legal Fictions – January 2008


By: John Mortimer

Directed by: Christopher Morahan

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Monday 14th January 2008

I confess I snoozed through some of the first part of this double bill, probably because I was still recovering from the cold/cough that has crippled me for several weeks, and partly because it’s a very static piece, set in a prison cell, with some lovely surreal dialogue, true, but not as dynamic as I needed at that time. The Dock Brief concerned a lawyer finally given his chance to shine by defending a clearly guilty man, and failing miserably. It’s very witty, unravels beautifully, and was well done by both Edward Fox and Nicholas Woodeson. At times the piece seemed Pinterish, though the lawyer’s wordiness is something Pinter would be unlikely to do. I particularly liked the twist at the end, when the lawyer’s defence was so bad that the defendant was considered not to have had a fair trial, and so gets let off. The set also had a touch of the surreal, with steeply sloping walls giving an exaggerated perspective.

The second piece, Edwin, found me wide awake throughout. A trio of older folk, a husband and wife and their neighbour, go through what seems to be a regular bickering routine. The husband is a retired High Court judge, and he spends most of his time addressing us, as if we were a jury, over one particular case – did his neighbour have sex with his wife? As the play unfolds, we get some entertaining bouts of wordplay, and the final hint by the wife that someone else altogether might be involved left the two men completely disconcerted. It was also interesting to see the different memories they all had of the son – artistic, mathematical etc. – especially as he had changed so much from all their memories.

I enjoyed this evening quite a lot, mainly because it was my first trip to the theatre that hadn’t been taken up with coughing. Thank God.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at

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