Silk: The Goodbye Kid or the time I gave Rupert Penry-Jones a warm hand on a TV programme

Five years ago, I was on the tellybox, playing a minor role in an episode of the third and final series of Silk, BBC1’s popular legal series following the daily goings on of Shoe Lane Chambers and its Queen’s Counsel barrister members.

Written by the series creator Peter Moffat, the opening episode of the show’s closing series, The Goodbye Kid saw Maxine Peake as Martha Costello QC hitting the bottle, angry that Inspector Wright has lied in court to frame and convict her client Johnny Foster. 

Later David (Alexander Arnold), the teenage son of head of chambers head Alan Cowdrey (Alex Jennings), is arrested for causing the death of a policeman, one of six who kettled him during a demonstration. Martha believes David has been bullied into pleading guilty by Wright and wants Alan involved in his son’s case but David isn’t too keen to see his father. 

What a dump

On a happier note, the legal system in relation to mental health is an important subject rarely touched upon, but it was handled with care here. David’s schizophrenia and the revelation that the unflappable Caroline Warwick QC (Frances Barber) spent time in an institution reminded us of Silk’s very human heart. Lastly, Clive Reader, played by Rupert Penry-Jones, finally becomes a QC, but his party to celebrate his silky awesomeness is dramatically cut short when news of the arrest of Alan’s son reaches the celebrations. 

I have to admit I had to borrow most of that plot synopsis from IMDB and Wikipedia, as I’ve not actually seen the episode myself; in fact, as of 2019 I haven’t manage to watch any episodes of Silk. I filmed my party scenes in June 2013 at the Royal Courts of Justice on London’s Strand, the very road where I was born, in fact, but by the time of broadcast in February 2014 I’d emigrated from the UK and haven’t managed to track the episode down online as yet.

My only abiding memories of the shoot is that Maxine burped a lot (there’s method acting and then there’s just being a bit of a pig), and that the impossibly tall and handsome Rupert has very large, warm hands. Make of that what you will.

Spot the back of head © BBC/Photographer: Colin Hutton

The scene in which I was most featured – not pictured – was played out on the basis of my being an old friend of Rupert’s who greeted him warmly on his arrival at the party with the incredibly taxing line “Congratulations!” Uttered in my poshest Dulwich accent naturally. “Thank you, thank you so much” replied his character, before disappearing into the throng.

The top montage image was sent to me via Twitter by Stefan, a kind gentleman mattress seller from Clapham, who also had a bit part in the episode being the object of Francis Barber’s lusty affections. That’s Francis on the right of the photo, who will of course be known to many as a British television stalwart (the dastardly Madame Kovarian in several episodes of the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who).

Of course, Barber also appeared as the Nico-style vamp Billie Trix in the Pet Shop Boys‘ musical Closer to Heaven in 2001 as well as guest singer for the torch song Friendly Fire (the song PSB wrote from the point of view of being David Bowie) on the seminal synth duo’s 2006 live concert album at London’s Mermaid Theatre, Concrete. Me? I’m still looking snooty and  disapprovingly at Maxine’s antics. Not much acting required there then.

Steve Pafford

My contemporaneous Record Collector review of Concrete is here

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Steve Pafford
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