Maurice at Above The Stag is the story of a man coming to terms with his homosexuality in Edwardian England based on the book by EM Forster. It was made into a much loved film in 1987 starring Hugh Grant and James Wilby in the title role, and now James returns to Maurice as director of this this new production of Roger Parsley and Andy Graham’s adaptation.
Maurice is packed with repressed sexuality, referred to as “venturing into the looking glass”, and is almost the total opposite of Above The Stag’s last main room production, Grindr: The Opera. The story is built around the title character’s life and this production is built around an excellent performance by Tom Joyner as Maurice. We first meet him as a schoolboy and watch his progress as he goes to Cambridge and the world beyond, and we meet the people he encounters. Maurice is an unusual main character in that he is not always altogether likeable and Tom Joyner portrays this with a beautifully unstated performance that means even when he’s being something of a cad, we are still routing for him. Max Keeble is impressive as Clive, the first of two relationships we see unfurl during the play, and he brings an engaging intensity to the role. Leo Turner brings a sensual physicality to the role of Scudder, Maurice’s other love, even if his accent didn’t always hit the geographical mark. The rest of the cast all have to deal with multiple roles and cope well, especially Daniel Goode and Lily Knight. The film version was lavishly shot on multiple locations, and director James Wilby has made this a more intimate piece, focusing on the language and characters, which the effective set by designer David Shields serves to highlight. The play is quite long, but is well paced with moments of laughter as well as drama. It’s a thoroughly engaging view of a world now gone. Dave Cross.