Maurice - superbly and caringly presented by Julian Glover - is a retired jeweller who has seen better days. A life of high-associations and travel have been dashed by Northern Rock, Bradford & Bingley and a tumour that’s grown from “balls to brain”. Enter palliative care nurse Katy (Nichola McAuliffe) to manage both his dying weeks and his seemingly fanciful expectation that the Queen will keep a 60-year old promise to come to tea on his 90th birthday.
McAuliffe’s central idea is rough diamond waiting for cutting, but as it stands, the show seriously jeopardises the audience’s affection, spending long periods talking about more interesting drama that’s off-stage. Glover handles this with aplomb but while his skill saves the audience from boredom, it highlights the script’s core weakness: in a stage play it’s always better to see the action than be told about it.
Maurice’s two-dimensional wife Helena is ably played by Sheila Reid, heroically getting on the nerves, in a part seemingly written without sympathy.
This is a well-intentioned play with a lot of wit that could be truly moving and excellent, but is just not yet ready. Glover is a joy to watch and the ensemble work well. Thankfully, a play - unlike a diamond - can be reworked.