Reviewed by Helen McWilliams
This production deserves to play to a full house every night, and hopefully as word spreads, it will!
Stupendously intricate writing combined with the talents of three outstanding actors, one of whom (namely Nichola McAuliffe) is responsible for penning this superbly witty yet tragic story, makes Maurice’s Jubilee my must-see of 2013.
Julian Glover takes the role of Maurice, a retired Jeweller who is happily married and has received the news that he is terminally ill. Although he loves the ‘Queen of his heart’, Helena (born in Germany but protests that her family originate from Poland) who has been lying about her age for the past twenty something years, Maurice fell in love with another woman sixty years ago. The ‘other woman’ is in fact the Queen, with whom he danced on the night before her Coronation while he was employed to protect the crown jewels. Therefore Her Majesty has unknowingly played the third person in his marriage to Helena. Indeed, Maurice believes that he has a long-standing appointment with the lady in question at 4pm on his 90th birthday, and he isn’t going to let his illness get in the way of it. This appointment sparks an unlikely twist which is tantalising and delightful to watch.
It appears that life for Helena (played with great sensitivity and grace by Sheila Reid of Benidorm fame) has not been without its disappointments and she has in effect been ‘sharing’ her husband all of their married life. Now that fate has dealt its latest and final blow to which Helena appears ambivalent to begin with – yet another woman enters their lives. This time it’s Katy, their well-meaning unmarried Palliative Care Nurse played with wonderful humour by the multi-talented Nichola McAuliffe. Katy might believe that honesty is the best policy when it comes to the heartbreakingly inevitable question ‘how long….?’ but she also stresses that a positive attitude and having something to look forward to is ‘better than chemotherapy’.
Maurice deals with his ‘lot’ fairly courageously with many jokes cracked at the expense of the illness and himself. Indeed this play had the audience in fits of laughter which is unexpected for such a serious subject matter, yet also demonstrates how hilarity can be found in the darkest of places. I am confident that most members of the audience could relate to at least one element of the story, I certainly could – this is observational comedy at its cleverest.
A lengthy monologue from Maurice (just before the interval) regaling the night before the Queen’s Coronation was performed to perfection by Julian Glover. The pace, tone of voice and overall delivery created an atmosphere in the auditorium in which you could hear a pin drop. Glover had the audience in the ‘palm of his hand’ and there were collective gasps of ‘wow’ when the curtain came down.
This new writing simply must not be missed, it boasts an amazing cast and I recommend it as a ‘complete’ evening at the Theatre. Visit http://www.mauricesjubilee.com for tour details and to book tickets.
First published 13.03.13