Enduring love and Royal encounter

Actress Nichola McAuliffe turns playwright once again, this time to see a Royal encounter, an enduring love and bungalow in Penge all collide in Maurice’s Jubilee at Brighton Theatre Royal (February 26-March 2), following a sell-out run at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival.

Nichola reprises her role as Katie, alongside Julian Glover (Maurice) and Sheila Reid (Helena).

Maurice is determined to reach his 90th birthday, which is the day before the diamond jubilee. The Queen, having made him a promise 60 years before, is coming to tea. His wife is convinced he’s never met the Queen. His nurse thinks it’s time he did.

Put it all together, and you get a poignant exploration of one man’s enduring commitment to a dream – coupled with an eternal love triangle, fallen on hard times.

“It started really when I was on my way back from my mother-in-law’s funeral in Edinburgh and I was thinking about her, thinking that there was nothing wrong with her except for what killed her. She was a very healthy person. And I was thinking about my ex-boyfriend’s father who just woke up dead one day.

“And I was also thinking about the jubilee year and the way that we project onto the Queen all sorts of things that are probably not true. And so it all came together.”

Nichola was also drawn to the drama of older people: “You think of human beings being interested in the beginning and not the end, but that’s rubbish. There is only so much you can say about being pregnant and having children. For me, it all gets much more interesting in the third act when you can introduce doubt…”

Which isn’t to say that this is a piece about death. It’s certainly not that, Nichola insists. The point is that Maurice insists that he met the Queen years before and she made him a promise. The Queen effectively becomes the third person in his marriage, says Nichola, deliberately echoing the late Princess Diana’s remark about her own marriage.

Against that, there is the fascination with the Queen – a figure who remains the same. She famously had her annus horribilis; last year she had an annus mirabilis. But she was undoubtedly the same person throughout, whatever was happening around her, whatever people were thinking of her.

As for the play, Nichola the playwright has kept things simple for Nichola the actor in the rehearsal room: “I know to keep the writer out. We have this conceit that the writer is in the Caribbean and the telephone lines are down.”

In the rehearsal room, it’s the director who is in charge: “When I am in the rehearsal room, I am an actor, and when you have got actors there of the calibre of Julian and Sheila, if they say that a line is difficult, then you know to believe them. They know what they are talking about.

“I have to throw it all open to the floor, and it doesn’t seem weird at all. I don’t have that ownership in there.”

Since Edinburgh, the play has had to be expanded to include an interval for touring purposes – an interesting process: “We had to cut it mercilessly to get it down to 90 minutes (for Edinburgh), but we haven’t just gone back to the original script. Having worked with Julian and Sheila, we found that there were other things in there that we wanted to develop instead.”

Tickets on 0844 871 7650.