Writer: Nichola McAuliffe
Director: Hannah Eidinow
Reviewer: Jenni Dixon
Maurice’s Jubilee was introduced at the 2012 Edinburgh festival where it was critically acclaimed and has since been adapted for a full length version for the UK theatres.
Maurice (Julian Groves) and Helena (Sheila Reid) live in a small bungalow in Penge, a far cry from riches they were once used to when Maurice was a jeweller. Having fallen on hard times, they are making the best of what they have left both materialistically and time wise. Maurice is diagnosed with inoperable brain tumours and is given the details of such via a palliative care nurse, fondly referred to as the “Angel of Death”, Katy (Nichola McAuliffe). She is as straight forward as Maurice is about his fate, reassuring him that “it’s not too late to take up smoking again!” Helena is unaware (or so it seems) of the extremeness of her husband’s health issues and is sure he’ll “snap out of it”. Maurice, in an Alan Bennett style monologue, describes to Katy a time when he was assigned to care for the Crown Jewels the night before the Queen’s coronation in 1952 and he makes it clear that there has always been another woman in his heart for the past 60 odd years – the Queen herself. He warmly describes how they spent a precious and life lasting memorable few hours together during which they both made sincere promises. Maurice ensured the Queen that if they both made it to her Diamond Jubilee, he would have made her something to show her the true beauty of diamonds and in return she promised to come to tea at 4 o’clock on his 90th birthday. Katy seems to appease the old man and say and do whatever it takes to keep her dying patient happy, however Helena is a little less sympathetic and is tired and outwardly jealous of what she seems to think is a rather made up story. Maurice won’t hear a bad word said against his Sovereign but is it really likely that she’ll keep her end of the deal?
The set is a simple but homely lounge of Maurice and Helena’s modest bungalow in which it is only the lighting that changes to adapt to moods and times of the day. Aside from a few nervously delivered lines at the beginning of the play, all the actors were truly superb. Julian as Maurice gave a Victor Meldrew edge to him but with less bitterness against the world. He seems to accept his fate and do what he can to ensure his wife is kept comfortable. Julian makes Maurice a warm, friendly, old man with the odd blast of macho, man of the house, still-in-charge dominance to equal degree. Sheila Reid as Helena was also perfect casting. A boastful woman of times when they did have it all and trying to stay as positive as possible, naively so perhaps, as life begins to end as she has known it for so long, incapable of controlling it. Finally, Nichola McAuliffe can be applauded for both her writing genius and acting in the rôle of Katy. It is perfectly scripted to incorporate so much humour to which could have been a terribly depressing subject. The audience will genuinely both laugh and cry their way through the whole performance.
Maurice’s Jubilee is a heart warming love story that cuts right into reality. Despite what could come across as ridiculous in terms of Maurice’s stories about the Queen, it is impossible not to feel for this old man, on his way out. The potentially awkward long silences on stage are intriguing and integral to the audience’s reflection. Whether a Royalist or not, Maurice’s story is engaging and truly, truly charming.