In the 1980s, our television screens seemed dominated by the claret-swigging, cigar smoking, utterly lovable and totally irreverent criminal lawyer Horace Rumpole – played to perfection by Leo McKern.
Rumpole was lauded as one of the great comic creations of modern times - but what ITV viewers may have been unaware of was the influence of author John Mortimer’s lawyer father.
So this beautifully drawn revival sheds extraordinary light not just on what – and more importantly who – shaped Rumpole but also the gifted Mortimer himself.
There are lots of references which resonate with Rumpole fans – from the Timson family to the phrase ‘she who must be obeyed.’
Indeed, the utterance of those words provoked the one real stir in the audience that suggested many would have been just as happy to watch a revival of the Rumpole stories on stage.
With compulsively charismatic and understated force, Rupert Everett plays the father – a man often provoked to anger possibly through the frustration of losing his sight in an accident in his beloved garden. Jack Bardoe complements as the unappreciated son whose care and love for his father seems perversely unrequited.
His father tells stories, champions lost causes simply for the sake of it, provokes and challenges – yet is there a serious message to his life? This is the enigma that the audience must ultimately seek to solve and resolve.
Gentle to the point of soporific at times, the themes run to the hearts of many families.
No murderers unmasked no underdogs successfully found not guilty after a dramatic Rumpole intervention – but better than that a huge treat to see Everett holding court with such wonderful aplomb.