Writer: Nichola McAuliffe
Director: Hannah Eidinow
Reviewer: Mary Tapper
At first glance this tale of a terminally ill pensioner, hanging on to his dream of meeting the Queen again after 60 years, sounds a bit dull and depressing, but, with the excellent Nichola McAuliffe at the helm, is this play a hidden gem, with wit and heart lifting an ordinary situation into something special?
The play is set in the front room of Maurice’s bungalow, where a carer is moving in to look after Maurice, until his inevitable death. With Maurice (Julian Glover), his wife (Gay Soper) and carer Katy (Nichola McAuliffe) providing all the action, the play stands or falls on their individual performances and here results are a little mixed. Some of the jokes and witty lines of the first half fall rather flat and the comic timing of Gay Soper in particular leaves a little to be desired. She does, however, come into her own in the second half and is better at the small, poignant moments of the play, where she is forced to re-evaluate her relationship with Maurice and his “Queen”. Glover and McAuliffe are both excellent and provide the play with a rock steady base from which to build. And build it does. By the end of the second half we are waiting with baited breath to see if the much awaited visitor finally arrives and we are totally convinced by the dialogue and characters of the play. McAuliffe is a master at teasing out the pathos of the moment, only to rein it back in with a witty aside or snide remark, and her script is a pleasure to listen to. It is also refreshing to see the imperfections of a relationship highlighted, rather than glossed over, while all the time celebrating the longevity and sheer staying power of ordinary love, warts and all!
The set is simple but effective, with a rather staid front room accurately depicted and, with lighting and sound adequate, there is nothing to distract from the conversations or intrude on our enjoyment of the piece.
Costumes are again unremarkable but special mention must go to the excellent transformation achieved in the second half of the play, where McAuliffe really proves what an excellent and versatile actress she is.
So does the play work? In places yes, but at times it seems terribly old fashioned and rather cliched. It seems to tell us, rather than show us, and with a lot of back story to tell, there is a lot of listening to speeches from characters and rather a lot of regretting. It is also at times funny and moving and by the end we are definitely rooting for the main characters to do the right thing and be at peace with each other. Not quite acerbic enough for all tastes and more of a gentle pleasure, this is non the less a very enjoyable evening, with lots of laughs and tears, that may well make you think about your own family relationships and treasure them more.