Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

Courting humour

<strong>Legal Fictions</strong><br /> Savoy <strong>Baby Girl; The Miracle</strong><br /> Cottesloe

Legal Fictions

Baby Girl; The Miracle

Edward Fox is having the time of his life. The creepy but compelling Jackal has evolved, late in his career, into a specialist light comedian. He’s seriously funny playing the lead roles in a double bill of John Mortimer plays, one from the 1980s, one from the 1950s, which have proved surprisingly resistant to the passage of time. The Dock Brief still functions beautifully even though its premise now requires explanation. Before legal aid was introduced, barristers were selected at random to represent defendants who lacked funds for lawyers. An alleged wife-murderer, Fowle, is ready to plead guilty but his fastidious last-minute advocate Morgenhall demands that for propriety’s sake he construct a false defence. So the killer, being a nice sort of chap, agrees. This pleasing comic inversion sets both men off on a legal fantasy that culminates in a clever and completely unexpected twist.

The second play is lighter and airier and yet has a distinctly tragic flavour. Sir Fennimore Truscott, a former judge, is in denial about his retirement and spends his time sitting in his garden presiding over mock trials. Suspecting his wife of adultery, he invites a friendly neighbour over and subjects him to an affectionate cross-examination in an attempt to establish the paternity of his son. Both plays are the work of a boyish intellectual humour and though they gleam with paradoxical contrivances they still appeal to our emotions because their escapist tendencies are grounded in real dilemmas and in real pain.

The National wants to draw teens into the theatre with an initiative called New Connections.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in