Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Silk: Legal-themed drama in wigs; too busy for lunch

Silk: Rupert Penry-Jones and Maxine Peake.
The frown means it's serious drama. (Photo: BBC)
Every legal drama needs a cockney. A wide-boy done good, working "up west" among the wigs of the criminal Bar.

In Silk, a new six part drama series on BBC One, it apears to be Billy Lamb (Neil Stuke), Senior Clerk of chambers and responsible for organising the barristers as they defend and prosecute various ne'er do wells of varying guilt.

And, naturally for a drama about those working in the criminal justice system, cockney Billy's not the lead character - despite the influence he has on their careers, he's bascially just the help.

Instead, this is all about Martha Costello: a tale of one woman's trials (literally) and tribulations (possibly literally - it's too soon to say, but it's likely).

Her aim is to become a QC - known as taking silk, after the silk gown QCs wear.

To do so she has to win her cases, and beat a rival candidate, for a successful application.

Ooh sounds like a six part drama series.

"Purses her lips"

Actress Maxine Peake purses her lips and rushes about everywhere as she plays the high-flying London barrister, 35 (ish), and with an accent that occasionally teeters on northern.

But this may be what writers call a "character point", a sign this high-flying professional hasn't lost her "roots".

And she cares too. Like, really cares?

She tells her new pupil (a trainee barrister), importantly: "It's about integrity of justice, Nick. It's about people getting a fair trial, and it matters so much."

You see? And the obligatory, pacily written and shot court scenes are all present and correct, but the scenes outside the courtroom are just as pacey, setting up Martha as not only someone with complete integrity for justice and that, but equipped with a witty retort at all times - and far too busy for a lunch break.

Maxine Peake plays Martha Costello: "too busy for lunch"
(Photo: BBC)
"Posh rival"

Oh no! She's dumped with two new cases the night before they're due to be heard by a judge.

Oh no! Rupert Penry-Jones plays a posh rival who also wants to be a QC.

He's celebrating after a defendent is aquitted following a date-rape charge, and sniffs a line of cocaine by way of a toast.

Martha spots him and is furious - she throws it away and then threatens to call the police, before he rolls down the stairs for a bit of extra visual colour. (Don't worry, Rupert fans. He's fine.)

And oh no! Martha's fridge in her flat is empty, although she likes to drink bottes of beer, and has a wardrobe full of identical white shirts. But does she ever eat?

She tries twice to speak to her mother in the episode but never gets very far - because, guess what, work always gets in the way.

You see the cost of her professional life on her personal life?

We get the picture. And I suspect we will be hearing more of this "theme" over the course of the series.

Meanwhile, Billy - who has a say in who gets to apply to be a QC from the chambers - has his own problems.

We know this because his spreadsheet showed a minus figure - chambers is losing money! - and then he threw a champagne glass against a wall which I think may mean he's angry.

This Billy, he knows stuff, see, and that's why I'm watching next week.

Every legal drama needs a Billy.

1 comment:

  1. I don't seem to see those judge wigs much these days. Have they finally fallen out of use or fashion?