Paul T Davies reviews Thom Southerland’s production of Harold and Maude at the Charing Cross Theatre.
Harold and Maude
Charing Cross Theatre
9 April 2018
The Beast from the East twice scuppered my chances to review the original cast of Harold and Maude, but how relieved am I to finally catch Thom Southerland’s beautifully inventive, funny and moving production at the cast takeover. Probably more well known as the film version, Colin Higgin’s 1974 play explores the growing relationship and love between depressed 19 year old Harold, whose fake suicide attempts are a desperate cry for attention from his society obsessed mother, and Maude, approaching her 80th birthday, who lives each day to the full, experiencing new things, and not tied down by processions or rules. She makes the decision to die on her 80th birthday, feeling that is the right time. Any notions that this is a taboo subject of inter-generational love and sex is swept away in a glorious story of love and living.
The central relationship is pitch perfectly performed. Linda Marlowe relishes the role of Maude, exuding a philosophy that may always be against the times, funny and full of life, and encouraging Harold to live as fully as possible. A survivor of the Holocaust, hints of her dark experiences are played with gentle pathos. What was interesting was in seeing how this character type has endured and grown; Maude was probably ahead of her time in the 1970s. But now she is present and strong, her contemporary would be Lily Tomlin in Grace and Frankie. When she says, “We do not need more walls, we need to build more bridges”, she is confirmed as a heroine of our time. She is matched by Patrick Walshe McBride’s excellent Harold, closed in and disconnected at the beginning, opening up to the widest and warmest of smiles as the play progresses, (reflected in Matt Clutterham’s wonderful lighting design). A beautiful, heart warming relationship convincingly played.
As Harold’s mother, Rebecca Caine is wonderfully acerbic, Joanna Hickman is particularly affective as date number three, an actress, and the very talented Samuel Townsend is scene stealing as Mr. Murgatroyd- a seal that Maude has ‘liberated’ from the zoo! Whilst some of the supporting cast acting is, shall we say a little broad and over the top in places, this matters little as they are all talented musicians of many instruments. And here is the real beauty of the production, the score that links the scenes together, superbly composed by Michael Bruce, underscores and compliments each mood.
Performed on Francis O’Conner’s excellent, Magritte inspired set, Harold and Maude could well turn out to be the sleeper hit of the year. Seriously, if you don’t come out of the theatre determined to live, L-I-V-E, you haven’t been paying attention.
Until 5 May
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