Theatre veteran and The Dock Brief director David Tudor tells us about working with John Mortimer, why his writing is timeless and what he’s learned over the years.
The Dock Brief runs at the Cockpit Theatre from 17 to 28 March 2020.
In a cell beneath the Old Bailey, the two men meet. One is Wilfred Morgenhall, the unmarried barrister who never gets any cases and is overjoyed to have won this dock brief, the defence of an accused individual with no lawyer (at public expense). The other is his client Herbert Fowle, an insignificant man who just wants to plead guilty to murdering his wife and get it all over.
Flashbacks show that the wife was impossible to live with and Fowle, who avoided her as much as possible, hatched a plot to get rid of her by taking in a male lodger. The lodger found her amusing and attractive, until one day he went too far and Mrs Fowle threw him out of the house. In despair at his plot having failed, Fowle killed her. As Morgenhall role plays various defences, he raises Fowle’s will to fight…
Barrister, dramatist and author John Mortimer wrote The Dock Brief in 1957, though he may be best remembered at the creator of barrister Horace Rumpole, who originally appeared as part of the BBC’s Play For Today in 1975, but went on to feature in TV series Rumpole of the Bailey and in a series of novels written by Mortimer.
At the Cockpit Theatre, The Dock Brief is directed by veteran director, producer and actor David Tudor, formerly Artistic Director of The Kings Theatre, Southsea. He directs Matthew Vernon as barrister Wilfred Morgenhall and Kingsley Glover as defendant Herbert Fowle. Vernon has worked extensively with The Olympia Players, appearing in productions including Twelfth Night and Pride and Prejudice, while Glover previously worked with Tudor on productions of 15 Street and Twelfth Night.
The Dock Brief runs at The Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, London NW8 8EH from 17 to 28 March 2020, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 9pm, matinees Fridays 4pm. Tickets are priced from £12. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!!
Director David Tudor on The Dock Brief
What moved you to revive The Dock Brief?
I knew John Mortimer. We were in partnership on a theatre project near his home at The Kenton Theatre, Henley-on-Thames in the 70s. I have very fond memories of him and his support for me as a young director and producer.
It was first performed in 1957, what keeps it relevant today?
The Dock Brief is almost timeless and indeed could have been written today. In an amusing and satirical way it deals with the way lawyers (and by extension politicians) can twist facts to avoid or pervert the real issues.
What do you think it is about John Mortimer’s writing that keeps readers and audiences returning to it?
John had an excellent way of dealing with “universal” truths. All his work is relevant and touches almost everyone’s own experiences.
How are you feeling about staging the show at The Cockpit Theatre?
When I was a student I saw a productions of Miss Julie at The Cockpit with the then unknown Helen Mirren playing Miss Julie. I fell in love with the space and its ethos.
You’ve been working theatre for many years now. Why are you so passionate about it?
As an eighteen year old I had no idea what career I wanted – I had never been to the theatre at that age. Then, by chance, I met Victor Spinetti in a coffee house and poured out all my disillusionment on him. He encouraged me to be an actor initially. All my mentors have been enthusiastic and passionate and they instilled that in me. I try now to instill that in others.
What can audiences expect from a trip to see The Dock Brief?
Audiences may expect an hour or so of amusing reflections on the stupidity and outdated pomp and vagaries of the law.