Rumpole and the Old Boy Net/ and the Sleeping Partners

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 20-21 March 2014
This reboot of the Rumpole saga, adapted by Richard Stoneman from John Mortimer's source-texts, was set in 1964, at a time when Rumpole (Benedict Cumberbatch) was a lively young counsel lacking aspiration for self[improvement, but enjoying his verbal battles with the slimy Erskine-Brown (Nigel Anthony).
This was a different Rumpole from that impersonated by Leo McKern, Maurice Denham or Timothy West.  Although enjoying such miscellaneous pleasures as drinking red wine or quoting Shakespeare or Wordsworth, Cumberbatch created a more vulnerable character - one that enjoys a brief fling with Phyllida Trant (Cathy Sara), who joins the chambers as Rumpole's pupil.  The experience proves traumatic for Rumpole and Phyllida alike for different reasons - although confident in court, Rumpole cannot really cope with difficult emotional experiences.  Although the story ends happily, with Rumpole happily restored to Hilda (She Who Must Be Obeyed) (Jasmine Hyde), we get the feeling that this is simply down to convenience; he cannot contemplate the experience of living a hand-to-mouth existence as a single man, eating fish and chips in chambers or bedding down for one night with Erskine-Brown.
This subplot ran throughout both episodes, each of which contained a court case in which Rumpole apparently overcomes impossible odds to defend his clients successfully.  The contrast between his public and private personae is palpable: without an audience to inspire him, or a judge to needle, he seems unable to cope with life.  The director of this pair of Afternoon Dramas was Marilyn Imrie.