WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Charing Cross Theatre
WHEN: 24/2, press night 26/2, runs to 31/3/18
How have we never managed to see the 1971 film of this life-affirming Colin Higgins play about a death-obsessed teenager and his chance meeting with a bohemian woman approaching her 80th birthday?
- Read on for reasons including how engaging Sheila Hancock is as Maude in this
This is playing for the first time in a London theatre and has the Olivier Award-winning 85-year-old Sheila Hancock at its heart.
Author Higgins wrote the screenplay as a third year film project while studying at the UCLA Film School in 1970. He was also working as a poolboy and part-time chauffeur for Paramount producers Edward and Mildred Lewis who submitted it on his behalf.
It tells the story of 18-year-old Harold (a quirky performance from West Ham fan Bill Milner) who stages fake suicides to the horror of his socialite mother (a memorable Rebecca Caine) and meets 79-year-old Maude (a tremendously engaging Hancock) at a funeral.
The pair form an unlikely friendship as she teaches him about her philosophies of life which feature much that continues to ring true today including an emphasis on the organic and the importance of building bridges and not walls.
The use of ages in this review is to give it a greater sense of the play’s themes about transitioning from adolescence to adulthood and finding a sense of peace at the end of a full life well lived.
It might not sound funny but there’s a dark sense of humour at work here which perhaps find their best expression in the blind dates Harold’s mother sets up for her son which he sabotages with a number of visual gags which include a skeleton being thrown from a wardrobe.
The ensemble cast is especially good and the way that they also play instruments to enhance the action contributes greatly to the whole. Particularly good is Samuel Townsend as a honking seal.
The plot might sound like an unlikely one for a fun night out at the theatre but Harold and Maude left us with a smile on our face and a warm glow at its conclusion.