Tim McArthur's production demonstrates an intimate knowledge of and fondness for Forster's work, and it flourishes in its detail. Incorporating studied Forsterian nuances such as the use of an umbrella as a veiled symbol of homosexuality, Maurice is awash with euphemisms both crass and clever.
Adam Lilley strikes a fine balance between sexual swagger and shamefulness, and the thinly veiled eroticism of his playfights with his Cambridge contemporary and first-love Clive Durham is a careful mix of abundance and restraint. The female characters have a hard time playing second fiddle in this male-centric plotline, but they do so admirably well. Both Maurice's sister and Durham's wife Ann are particularly grating - but intentionally so. This stage adaptation of Maurice sensitively and sagaciously realises what was only ever a dimly-lit fantasy for Forster.
- Helena Rampley
At the beginning of Maurice the eponymous lead is given a rather crude yet entertaining biology lesson. Delivered with enthusiastic aplomb by Mr Ducie, it’s concerned with the male and female anatomy. However, despite plenty of encouragement throughout the play it is clear from the outset that Maurice has little interest in women or their anatomy.
In this lengthy adaptation of EM Forster’s novel we observe Maurice run the gauntlet as a gay man, book-ended between a repressive Edwardian dogma and a devout Christian family. Taking in love, rejection and hypnotism, the journey understandably is not all sweetness and light.
Adam Lilley gives a rounded and engaged performance as Maurice Hall and is ably assisted by newcomer Rob Stott as Clive Durham. In fact the real strength of this production lays in the various tête à têtes between the lovers, who rejoice and then later battle with their sexuality “against the rest of the world”. The contrary worlds of Cambridge, replete with Plato’s Symposium and then later on, Clive’s family seat in Penge (where he begins to “pass” as straight), are also neatly realised by director Tim McArthur.
Stevie Raine impresses as the earthy Alec Scudder and some tidy cameos from Jonathan Hansler (Mr Ducie/Mr Lasker Jones) and Gil Sutherland (Dr Barry) add weight to the proceedings. The costumes too are impressive and complement both character and era.
Maurice is a sound production without ever being spectacular and although McArthur teases some fine moments from a rather broad and wordy adaptation, the production does suffer from some confused staging and a tendency to over-egg the pudding. Particularly confusing is the kiss between Maurice and Clive, as witnessed by Mrs Hall (Leanne Masterton). It is difficult to ascertain whether she is meant to have seen them or if she just happens to have walked in on them. Either way her reaction is incongruous when we consider that fact that she is a Christian Edwardian mother watching her son kiss a man on the lips. The lighting too threatens to break the narrative thread and restrict the play to a series of episodic scenes, bracketed by one too many blackouts.
These concerns aside, the play remains an engaging portrayal of the complications and emotional turmoil suffered by gay men in Edwardian society.
- Ed Clark