Pleasance and PW productions in association with Wild Thyme productions and Ambassador Theatre Group
New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Maurice is dying. There is no question about that, but have the multiple tumours in his brain effected his mind as well as his body? His insistence that he once spent a night with the Queen and that she will be coming to tea the next day on his 90th birthday would lead to that conclusion, but then—could it possibly be true?
Maurice was once a dashing young airman, but it was in his capacity as a jeweller that he was once entrusted with the task of collecting the Crown Jewels from Buckingham Palace and transporting them to Westminster Abbey ready for the next day’s coronation, having to stay with them all night as security.
As Maurice, Julian Glover gives a long and touchingly heartfelt monologue remembering how, on that evening sixty years ago, he not only talked informally with Her Majesty but actually danced with her to Elizabethan Serenade, and he fell in love. “You could drown in those eyes”.
His constant reference to that event irritates wife Helena (Sheila Reid), even making her a little jealous, and she makes light of his dream, as she does of his illness firmly denying that he is going to die, but he is as true to his trust in the Queen as she has been true to her commitment to her duty and he firmly believes that she will keep her promise.
Christopher Richardson has provided a homely, but slightly shabby sixties set for their living room, and the first scene is slow but gives us a little of the story of this man and his wife as they confide in his sympathetic palliative care worker, and they paint a picture of the affluent lifestyle they had to sacrifice with savings in Bradford and Bingley and shares in Northern Rock, they lost everything.
McAuliffe is care assistant Katy and the best comic and witty exchanges are between her and Maurice. In her beautifully written script there’s a lot of humour, as there is in life even when death is at the door.
This superbly funny actress gives an excellent interpretation of a ‘caring‘ care assistant, but it is the second character that she takes on which is the funniest and the most impressive.
A surprise hit at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, this show appeals mainly to an older audience who can sympathise with every mention of the effects of growing old, and McAuliffe says she finds age more interesting than youth. “All the best stories are in the third act of life” she says—which the young would also know if they would only listen.
I didn’t see a young person around but the theatre was packed with a very enthusiastic and appreciative audience, so we didn’t miss them at all.
Touring to Richmond, Brighton, and Birmingham.
Reviewer: Sheila Connor