Knightsbridge and The Dock Brief at Shaftesbury Arts Centre

JOHN Mortimer, drawing from his own experience, wrote his first play The Dock Brief in 1958.

It’s a gentle comedy that satirises the precarious existence of those called to the Bar. Wilfred Morgenhall studied late into the night, devouring legal precedent and Latin terminology until he passed his finals and was called. But that was a long time ago, and since then he has been spectacularly underemployed, sitting in chambers or in court waiting for a brief. Now, as his “working” days draw to a close, he FINALLY gets a Dock Brief.

Bird fancier Mr Fowle, charged with murdering his wife, is entitled under English law to have a barrister representing him and he “chooses” Morgenhall, by closing his eyes and pointing his finger around the court.

The barrister knows that his moment has come, and he tries to blind the simple, and simply guilty, Mr Fowle by his erudition. Together they plot a defence, using the few available minutes to enact the various possible scenarios in Fowle’s cell.

Then they are called into court …

This brilliant and funny two-hander is full of bombast and pathos, and Kerry Gardner’s production for Shaftesbury Arts Centre Drama Society is perfectly played by Will Scott-Masson as the barrister and Rupert Farrington as the accused.

The evening opens with a later Mortimer play, Knightsbridge, another clever upender of expectations.

Francesca Stokes brings her suave and much older boyfriend, Henry, to see her mother Muriel in her flat behind Harrods, so that he can ask for her hand in marriage.

Muriel is out when they arrive, and soon the phone rings. It’s a man wanting to see a woman’s double fronted chest.

Sixties girl Francesca, all mini-skirts and free love, takes the call at its face value, while television star Henry sees all sorts of other possibilities.

Muriel arrives home and they discuss the matter, with the shocked and newly enlightened Francesca and her leering boyfriend discussing “the oldest profession” and Muriel sharing the secrets of antique furniture.

Mortimer sheds hilarious light on the double entendre and the confusion of English words with their very different meanings.

Directed with a lightness of touch and a fine eye for detail, it is performed by Jax Beatty as the delightfully English upper class Muriel, Katy Darragh as her daughter, Rupert Farrington as the slimy Henry and Chris Stotesbury in a cameo role.

The plays continue until Saturday 5th April, and make a delightful evening out.


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