REVIEW: Maurice's Jubilee Theatre Royal, Bath 8/10
NICHOLA McAuliffe swapped her Wicked Queen costume, which she wore to such great affect in this theatre's Christmas offering Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to reappear as a leading actress and playwright in this sometimes funny, often poignant story of a life obsessed with the Queen.
Ninety-year-old terminally ill retired jeweller Maurice spent the eve of Queen Elizabeth's Coronation in her company whilst he was preparing the Crown Jewels for the great day.
They danced together and they promised to meet on the eve of her Diamond Jubilee, his 90th birthday, when he would give her a gift made of diamonds crafted by himself.
That is the story Maurice tells his caring nurse Katy, but is it true, or just a figment of an ailing old man's imagination? And when the Queen arrives to have tea with Maurice is it actually her, or the nurse dressed up to impersonate her in order to make his final moments the happiest of his life?
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If ever a story was open to over sentimentality this is it. It was however never an option in the skilled hands of Jeremy Glover, whose heartrending Maurice makes you want to believe every little detail of his tale, Nichola McAuliffe's portrait of a wonderfully caring nurse, and Sheila Reid as loving wife Helena nursing a life long jealousy of a Queen who has unintentionally usurped her place in Maurice's affections.
Jeremy Glover's handling of the lengthy speech in which he tells the nurse the details of his evening with the future Queen was a master class in how to hold an audience through the pure power of speech.
There were moments when you wanted the action to move on at a greater pace, but not in the beautifully written afternoon tea scene, in which Nichola McAuliffe splendidly captures the Queen's vocal mannerisms, and Sheila Reid unselfishly played the straight foil this was a lovely mixture of comedy and poignancy.