Matthew Paul delivered a flawless performance as Maurice in History Month’s homage to Forster’s posthumously released novel of the same name. Paul’s ability to express Maurice’s inner turmoil physically and facially throughout the two hours was captivating, and held the audience in a trance deeper than his hypnotherapist could provide.
The fundamental premise of any love story is the chemistry and romance between the fated pair- in this case, Clive Durham and Maurice Hall. When the relationship must be strong enough to grow despite societal norms, the connection binding the protagonists should be even more believable… but I wasn’t convinced. I watched the two edge closer on the sofa, urging my heartstrings to be pulled, but unfortunately, I was not sufficiently moved. The lines were delivered flawlessly, and both Eriksson and Paul’s individual acting abilities were beyond doubt- A little more lingering eye contact here, another accidental brush of fingers there, and who knows? This could yet become a love worth being Deaned for.
In contrast, Scudder (Drysdale)’s scarcity of lines in early appearances forced him to capitalise on non-verbal communication to establish his future relevance in the play, which he did subtly and successfully. It may be that the more natural interplay between Maurice and Scudder in comparison to Durham reflects that this is the purer relationship.
The reading aloud of letters, while not original, was nonetheless effective and exceptionally well utilised by both Drysdale and Eriksson to develop their individual characters and move the story forward. The gramophone effect over the background music was slightly creepy but true to the era, but the sound of the motorbike needs to be louder- it genuinely took a second to realise it was not the sound of poorly suppressed flatulence!
The nature of a play which moves through time so quickly is that supporting actors have a limited time on stage. Helena Fox and Stanley Lawson both used comic timing and flamboyant characterisation to warm the audience up into giggles. Cora Alexander and Ali Sabir both breathed life into Maurice’s upbringing and society as his sister and doctor, with Alexander as Ada providing both light comedy with her ambulance skills and a raw and heart-breaking reaction to her brother’s sexuality.
The minimalist set perfectly maintained an Edwardian background, while allowing quick and seamless transitions through multiple time periods and locations. The sustained presence of Mr Lasker Jones, the hypnotherapist, worked as a subtle but effective device to maintain a link between these scenes within the context of recounted events. Indeed, Will Batty had almost as much stage time as Maurice himself, and never dropped character. The contrast between his benign true self and the more malevolent manifestation within Maurice’s mind was effortless but sent shivers down my spine- even with just one repeated phrase…
Overall, the play is well worth catching before closing night this Saturday- but be quick! With a nearly full Corpus Playroom on only the second night, you’ll need to buy your tickets quickly… I predict a sell-out!