Writer: Nichola McAuliffe
Director: Hannah Eidinow
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
After an acclaimed run at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Maurice’s Jubilee continues its UK tour, delighting audiences with its unique blend of laugh out loud comedy and touching pathos. Astutely observed and superbly written, Nichola McAuliffe’s new play gives a wholly realistic glimpse into the relationship between a couple who have been married for more than sixty years, and a palliative nurse who moves into their home.
Katie (McAuliffe) moves into the Hodger’s home to assist with care for Maurice (Julian Glover) who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Helena (Sheila Reid) at first seems to be in denial over her husband’s illness, and the stress of the situation allows both spouses to reveal old frustrations and fears to their new guest. Maurice speaks of a memorable meeting he had with the Queen on the day before her coronation, and also of a promise they made to meet on his 90th birthday which is only months away. Although dubious as to his tale’s veracity, Katie encourages this idea – aided by a reluctant Helena – hoping that having something to look forward to will help Maurice to battle his illness. With pithy exchanges, moving monologues and thoughtful staging, the play is both cleverly crafted and emotionally mature, pulling no punches in tackling the realities of growing older.
All three performances are outstanding, with each actor eliciting both laughs and tears from the audience, often simultaneously or in rapid succession. Reid creates a sympathetic and multifaceted character, a woman who has been through many trials but remains both loyal and loving to her husband and son. The moments where she is alone on stage are incredibly affecting, as she allows the audience a glimpse into her inner turmoil and heartache.
Glover’s Maurice is admirable, a good man wracked with guilt over past mistakes yet still full of hope, and in addition to the sterling performance he gives throughout his extended monologue at the end of act one is a true tour de force.
Both as playwright and performer McAuliffe is as generous as she is talented, watching rapt as the other characters speak and playing her dual rôles with sincerity and deftness of touch. The comedy – and in particularly the comic timing – of the cast is magnificent and provides a beautiful and stark contrast to the heart-breaking sombre moments.
A truly majestic, engaging play that shows we still have a lot to learn from our elders and betters.