facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11
Are you missing theatre as much as we are? Support us now with Theatre Tokens and see your favourite shows when they reopen.

Legal Fictions

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 17 April 2008

The law is a serious business, or so anyone would think before watching this double bill of plays (The Dock Brief and Edwin) by former barrister John Mortimer. Mortimer sees the comical side of courtrooms, or, rather, the lawyers and judges which inhabit them, and in Edward Fox, who takes the lead in both halves of the production, has a lead actor who revels in the world of aging, respectable, eccentric dreamers. Matthew Amer was in the first night audience of Legal Fictions at the Savoy.

In teaming late 50s piece The Dock Brief with Edwin, written in the early 80s, director Christopher Morahan has joined two short plays about legal workers struggling to deal with hard facts of reality.

The Dock Brief concerns a barrister late in his career, Morgenhall, who rarely has a case to try but is given the chance to defend a self-confessed murderer. Confined to a dimly lit cell, the pair acts out the possible lines of defence, which always end in victory; but it is an easy victory when judge and jury are played by the convict and his legal representative.

Edwin follows a retired judge who feels the need to treat everything in life as a court case, but, no matter how he looks at the evidence, he cannot see the truth about his family life that is so clearly laid before him.

Fox has the air of dignity required to bring truth to such highly esteemed characters, yet still imbues them with the eccentricity needed to bring a smile to the face. His Morgenhall is full of bluster and bravado, worrying about the outcome of the case, but more for its effect on him than his client’s freedom. As retired judge Truscott, he ages a decade or so, slipping occasionally into an old-man mumble slightly reminiscent of a descending note being played on a cello. Though both characters are clearly flawed, in Fox’s hands they are nothing if not likeable.

Nicholas Woodeson provides ample support, first as the endearingly meek, wife-murdering Fowle, a man in awe of his legal companion and always ready to bring a wholly unhelpful touch of reality to a situation, and then as cheekier, knowing trouble-stirring neighbour Tom.

Designer Mark Bailey has produced two contrasting sets for the complementary pieces; a closed, repressive cell with minimal furniture, and an open summer English country garden with over-hanging branches, a steamed-up conservatory and a riot of colour in the flower beds.

Snippets within Mortimer’s script hint at a different time – references to capital punishment and computers being the future of the world – though in general the text is not dated. Its gentle, soothing humour tickles the funny bone like a mild summer breeze rather than with the full force of the law. em>MA


Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.