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Maurice's Jubilee (Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Nicola McAuliffe is an award-winning actress who has dazzled as the leading lady of the RSC’s Kiss Me Kate; been sassy and sophisticated in the West End’s Semi-Monde and razor sharp in the TV series Surgical Spirits.

But her talents aren’t just directed  towards performing as she is an accomplished writer of novels, children’s stories and plays of which Maurice’s Jubilee is now embarking on a short tour after a deservedly highly successful season at the Edinburgh Festival. Miss McAuliffe’s wealth of experience, undoubted stagecraft and superb timing are much in evidence in this play which balances humour and pathos with such assurance. It may be a little old-fashioned but it is a delightful gem making for a happy night at the theatre.

Maurice is about to be ninety but dying; Katy, a palliative care nurse arrives to look after him and his wife appears not to realise just how ill her husband really is. He is determined to make it to his birthday, not just because it is the big nine – 0 but more importantly he is convinced a promise from sixty years ago will be kept. Is it all in his imagination or can dreams really come true? The first half sets up the situation and introduces the characters with some wonderful lines and telling moments with which all married couples can relate. But it is the second half which is the centre piece of the play – a surprise is in store and to say more will spoil it!

As Maurice, Julian Glover is superb as he moves from irascible and self-centred to vulnerable in seconds and his monologue which closes the first half is brilliantly done – the audience hangs on every word. Sheila Reid extracts all the frustration out of Helena clearly showing the ups and downs of her long marriage. It is a performance of great skill in what is probably the least rewarding role of the three.

And then there is Nicola McAuliffe herself who is quite simply amazing but to find out why you will need to see the show. Gauche but practical in Act One she transforms herself after the interval. Her duologue with Maurice is a treat!

All credit to the three actors for drawing us in to this gentle play as ideally it needs a smaller stage and a more intimate theatre but never mind catch it while you can. It is a night of heart-warming joy to lighten a cold winter’s evening.

- Richard Woodward


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