Association of Community Theatre


by Nichola McCauliffe

directed by Carolanne Connolly

Burnley Garrick


Already this season, Pendle audiences and I have seen two little known plays which, to my mind, stand alongside the very best that theatre can offer by way of entertainment.  The first play was The Spirit of Annie Ross from Colne Little Theatre and the presentation I am reviewing here by the Garrick.  Maurice’s Jubilee was first presented at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012 and proved to be an award winner starring Julian Glover and Sheila Reid.


Maurice and Helena have downsized to a suburban bungalow. They are living out their retirement in penury after losing their investments in the Bradford and Bingley and Northern Rock banking crises.  Now Maurice is dying but he wants to make it to his ninetieth birthday because of a promise he made to the Queen.  The now terminally ill Maurice made a pact with the young Elizabeth on the eve of her Coronation. As a jeweller and former commando, he had been despatched to the palace to collect and guard the crown jewels overnight. This night is also his birthday, and the young queen-to-be is captivated by the knowledgeable diamond expert. They dance together and young Maurice falls totally in love. They agree to meet up on his birthday, the eve of her Diamond Jubilee, a date so far into the future, that neither imagines its coming to pass.


As the programme said, “[Does it] sound far-fetched?” In his reminiscences, we learn that Maurice was a diamond specialist working for Garrards. the Jewellers, who had been entrusted with guarding the crown jewels.


According to Maurice, Elizabeth promised she would look him up on his 90th birthday.  We, as an audience, were beginning to wonder whether or not it was the effect of the brain cancer from which Maurice was suffering or …..?


End of life plays can sometimes be so harrowing that one wonders why they are ever presented.  But this play was strangely uplifting. That was due to a wonderful script brought to life by Carolanne and her superb trio of actors. The play is full of humour as well as the inevitable pathos. By their very nature, plays are wordy compared with other forms of theatre, and with only three in the cast it could make a play seem overly long, but not with this company.  The time flew by and all because of the interpretation of the dialogue.


Paul McGowan in the eponymous role was superb.  Full of expectation and yet resignation to the fact that he was dying, his long passages of dialogue were wonderfully paced and drew us into his memory of that night when he was to guard the crown jewels.  We believed him, and we wanted it all to be true, and his wish to be fulfilled.


His palliative care nurse, Katie, was played by Joanne Shepherd.  Joanne as the nurse was efficient whilst being also extremely caring.  This was another wonderfully observed portrayal of a very important role. Even when she was just having to sit still, listening to Maurice’s long reminiscences, it could have seemed awkward, but we felt that Joanne was hearing the story for the very first time.  This is the measure of a fine actor and it was a role which suited Joanne.  Acutely observed, Joanne’s subterfuge to please her patient in the second act, was absolutely riveting and so well observed that one very nearly forgot that it was Katie playing the role.


Completing the cast was Maurice’s long-suffering wife, played by Lynne Atkinson.  Lynne was by turns caring, frustrated, worried and irritated by the man she knew loved her but was IN love with another, and had been for nearly 60 years.


Lynne’s dialogue was perfectly paced whether offering Katie vegetarian choices, which weren’t vegetarian, or commenting that dishwasher tablets were half price at Morrisons.  Maurice pointed out that they hadn’t got a dishwasher.  That fact didn’t faze her in the slightest. She retorted, “I know, but they are still half price!”


Such examples of the humour of this play were peppered throughout the evening and contrasted extremely well with the pathos of the dying Maurice.


Carolanne, as director, had, along with her cast, created a finely tuned piece of theatre.  The phrasing, the nuances within the phrases, the total understanding of the role of each character and the relationship one to the other created performance excellence.  With only three in the cast, Carolanne was able, with her cast to explore in depth each specific role, and the work and this certainly paid off.


None of this excellence could not have been presented without the superb team behind the scenes.


A simple curtained set with appropriate lighting and furniture that had obviously seen better days and highlighting the couple’s impoverished state was all that was required.  Contrasting this were some excellent props, particularly the tea service, which served to highlight the richness both Maurice and Helena had once known.  The medical props were accurate and were never intrusive.


I particularly appreciated the complete absence of unnecessary movement by the performers.  Every part of this play was right, direction, cast, crew, properties, wardrobe, sound, and lighting. The cast’s wardrobe was accurate, from Maurice’s elasticated waistband trousers, velcro fastening slippers and zip up cardigan, the nurse’s stripes, and the visitor’s absolutely perfect outfit.


Maurice’s Jubilee gave the audience a very special night at the theatre.


Congratulations to everyone associated with the presentation.