by Nichola McAuliffe.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
Tour to 20 April 2013.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 April at Oxford Playhouse.
Solid qualities in writing and a fine cast.
This play reassures a certain kind of playgoers they have not been forgotten. It starts, proceeds, and finishes at a satisfyingly clear point. It faces up to old-age and death, not sentimentally, yet not in excessive clinical detail – though the changing condition of 89-year old Morris between the two acts is clear in his clothing.
If he’s not going gentle into any good night, he’s less raging than insisting on celebrating. A former jeweller, he was summoned just before the Queen’s coronation to ensure the crown jewels were up to scratch for the big day.
Sixty years later, on the eve of the 2012 Royal Jubilee, it’s his big day, and he dresses-up for the reunion he’s sure was promised when he briefly danced with the young Elizabeth.
It’s not a play to offend royalists – how could it, when author (and very fine actor) Nichola McAuliffe previously wrote A British Subject, a human rights story with a positive, and fully deserved, role for the Prince of Wales.
And it’s sympathetic to age, particularly the reliance on others. For Maurice this is physical, as palliative nurse Katy arrives, and emotional, for, her Majesty apart, he awaits a ’phone call from his son on the other side of the world.
McAuliffe is clear what happens with that. Her trick is over the royal matter. It leads to the play’s finest scene, allowing the author to contrast her lively, yet tactful Katy with another incarnation.
Julian Glover gives Maurice a gravity that makes real his past financial misfortunes, thanks to banks, and his unexpectedly impoverished old age. Gay Soper (sharing the role of Maurice’s wife with Sheila Reid for the tour) suggests the personal concerns Helena has quieted during a long marriage shared with the memory of royalty. Her presence throughout, means nothing can simply be ascribed to Maurice’s imagination.
In subject, tone, pace and McAuliffe’s play is perfectly suited to traditional-minded theatregoers, who want some surprise, but not too much shock. Even a final turn of events too abrupt to be dramatically explored will give a theatrical sensation many may find satisfying.
Helena: Gay Soper.
Maurice: Julian Glover.
Katy: Nichola McAuliffe.
Director: Hannah Eidinow.
Designer: Christopher Richardson.
Lighting: Mark Jonathan.
Sound: Tom Lishman.
Assistant lighting: James Smith.