What was the appeal of directing The Dock Brief?
It’s witty and heartwarming – just what we need coming out of the last two awful years. It has two wonderful characters (Morgenhall and Fowle) who grow and develop as the play progresses. And most importantly, it reminds us that there is always hope, even in the direst of circumstances. What could be better than that?
What is it about?
It’s a brilliantly funny little play that demonstrates, once and for all, that Charles Dickens was right: the law is an ass! It’s a satire that holds the law up to scrutiny and lets us laugh at its failings. I think John Mortimer (who also wrote Rumpole of the Bailey) is pointing out to us that the law is not so much about trying to achieve high ideals, such as equality or fairness, or even ensuring that justice is done; it’s about making us follow the legal system’s own self-made rules and regulations, whether they make sense or not.
What was it like researching the play?
I found some very silly laws! Did you know, for example, that it’s illegal to “handle salmon suspiciously” – be careful you don’t get yourself arrested on the way back from Sainsbury’s! The Dock Brief demonstrates that the workings of the law are strange and often incomprehensible but does so in a wonderfully endearing way. Just one thing: some critics have described the end of the play as unsatisfactory, but I think they’re missing the point. It’s meant to be unsatisfactory – the play is ridiculing the law. It’ll be good to hear what audiences in Peebles have to say about that!
Tell us more about the two characters?
Morgenhall is a barrister who’s worked hard to achieve his position but has waited all his life for a lucky break. Fowle is a more humble man – a seed-merchant who keeps budgies. Both have been waiting for years for their lives to improve. And both are stuck in the past and trapped by the very things they believed would make them happy. Robert Burns described it well – being left with feelings of grief and pain by something that “promis’d joy”. The play throws these two characters together but, delightfully, it becomes a meeting of two kindred spirits: two people, whose lives are very different but recognise something special in each other. The joy for us is in seeing what happens as the play progresses.
Who will enjoy The Dock Brief?
As a comedy, I think the play has a really broad appeal. It also makes a serious point in a lighthearted way, and that’s what we’ve found our audiences love most. At Rapture Theatre, we’re all looking forward to getting back to live theatre – there’s nothing like it – and this is a great place to start. We can’t wait to tour with The Dock Brief and perform to our lovely, lunch-time audiences again. This time, the food will be a starter, the play will be the ‘main course’ and we’ll also have a ‘dessert’ – or at least a coffee and cake – which will be a discussion with the actors and myself about the play. We’re all looking forward to seeing you soon and hearing what you have to say about this special little lunchtime treat!
The Dock Brief is performed at the Eastgate Theatre on Wed 10 November. Pre-play lunch at 12.15pm, with performance at 1pm. Tickets £15 (lunch and play) or £12 (play only), available from Box Office on 01721 725777 or online here. And for much more on the company’s work, visit Rapture Theatre.