E.M. Forster's novel MAURICE is, like Isherwood's A SINGLE MAN (recently made into a fine film) a "gay classic." I hate to pigeonhole it like that. Fine books, plays, novels about gay people shouldn't simply be marginalized as gay art and therefore ignored by straight people, but that is often the case. MAURICE may not be as great as some of Forster's other novels, but it is an important work about an ordinary, not very reflective, young Edwardian man who discovers himself at a time when homosexuality was taboo. The Merchant-Ivory team made a fine movie of it in 1987 with James Wilby, Hugh Grant and Rupert Graves. It probably is a bit crazy and perhaps unnecessary to try to turn it into a play, but Roger Parsely and Andy Graham did and it has been having a sellout run at the Above the Stag Theatre, a nice little space over a pub near Victoria Station.
The play is quite faitful to the book. In fact, it probably could have benefitted by some cutting (it's almost three hours long and the seats are quite hard)and focusing on Maurice's two major relationships; the platonic love and eventually painful relationship with aristocrat Clive Durham, and the passionate one with Durham's servant, Alec Scudder. The scenes with Scudder were quite powerful as was the moment when Maurice blames his sister for Clive's conversion to heterosexuality. The production is, perforce, simple. The cast a mixed bag from superb to quite awful. However, Adam Lilley is so good as Maurice Hall that all is forgiven. Lilley is a bit too old for the part and a bit too intelligent, but he convincingly plays Maurice from boyhood through his mid-twenties. Lilley really captures Maurice's anguish, his fear and the power of his conversion when he finally accepts who he is and what he wants. This actor is a real find. Fine performances, too, from Stevie Raine as Alec Scudder and Persia Lawson as Maurice's put-upon sister.
MAURICE, adapted from the novel by E.M. Forster by Roger Parsley and Andy Graham. Directed by Tim McArthur. Above the Stag Theatre. March 21, 2010.