BBC Radio 4, 28-29 May 2008
lovers of nostalgia, the opportunity to listen to John Mortimer’s Rumpole on
Trial evoked memories of the celebrated ITV series with Leo McKern as the eponymous lawyer. The story – involving
Rumpole taking on a series of cases and emerging triumphant, while failing in his bid to become a QC – had a whiff of
contemporaneity, with references to ASBOs, the smoking ban in pubs and the nanny state. But basically this drama kept its
feet firmly in the past, with its portrayal of a cigar-smoking, wine-quaffing maverick with an enduring concern for the underdog.
One could not imagine Rumpole endearing himself to the average New Labour politician. Timothy West portrayed him as an irascible
yet lovable old rogue. Prunella Scales played Hilda (“she who must be obeyed”) who briefly considered joining
her husband in chambers, but gave up the idea once she realized just how unscrupulous lawyers can be.