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Maggie May - Curve Review

Maggie May is an honest and emotional study of how dementia can affect a family. The co-production between Curve, Queen's Theatre Hornchurch and Leeds Playhouse is running at the Leicester venue until Saturday 11th June.

Tony Timberlake (Gordon) and Eithne Browne (Maggie) in Maggie May. Photo by Zoe Martin.

Frances Poet's sensitive play is about how an everyday family faces the diagnosis and prepares for the future. The script is light and airy but also doesn't shy away from the reality of the situation. The research and development done by Leeds Playhouse Theatre and Dementia Advisor Dr. Nicky Taylor and Poet has created a powerful piece that will touch you deeply. 

Taylor was the pioneer behind creating dementia-friendly performances and rightly every performance of Maggie May is dementia-friendly and accessible. There's great thought gone into this, there's a lovely quiet area in the front of house, there's great work by the Curve staff and the piece itself uses a few techniques including each character having their own identifiable colour scheme and the use of captions to highlight what the key happenings of a scene are.

The first act follows Maggie, who has been caring for her husband Gordon who is himself recovering from a stroke, as she comes to terms with the diagnosis initially shying away from telling anyone. On her son Michael's birthday, it comes out and whilst this initial shock is hard for him he remains supportive. The second act furthers that impact on the family but also celebrates Maggie's own independence and positivity. There are some truly heart-wrenching scenes discussing death, or simply Maggie forgetting her son

Eithne Browne is magnificent as Maggie. The way she carries this role is almost that you forget you're even watching a performance, it feels so real. The portrays both the positive and the negatives with such believability and skill. Maggie isn't a woman defined by her diagnosis, though Browne may be an actress defined by a performance like this.

Mark Holgate (Michael), Shireen Farkhoy (Claire), Tony Timberlake (Gordon), Maxine Finch (Jo) and Eithne Browne (Maggie) in Maggie May. Photo by Zoe Martin

Tony Timberlake is equally impressive as dotting husband Gordon. Timberlake carries the emotions with great aplomb, especially in the scenes just between him and Maggie, often breaking into song as a way to re-connect. Timberlake is brilliantly funny too, there are some hilarious comedic moments in his performance.

Mark Holgate is quite firm on the outside as son Michael but inside you know there is simply a son who loves his mother and wants what is best for her. Holgate does this well and interacts well with those around him, especially with Shireen Farkhoy as girlfriend Claire. Claire is often referred to as previous ex Emily by Maggie but it doesn't faze her. Farkhoy brings real warmth to the role. Finally, Maxine Finch as Maggie's loyal and a bit eccentric best friend Jo, another all-round superb performance.

Set design by Francis O'Connor sees the use of Maggie's notes hanging above the stage, these notes are reminders for Maggie to remember things. It's a fairly bare stage, bar beds or tables and chairs coming in and rightly it lets the focus be on the characters. For Harry Potter fans, there are loads of mentions of the books and even the on-stage appearance of a dementor. 

Maggie May is a powerful, relevant, educational and uplifting production. It'll make you laugh, and it'll certainly make you cry. Beautiful life-affirming theatre.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Maggie May plays at Curve until Saturday 11th June 2022. Tickets are available from 

Tony Timberlake (Gordon) and Eithne Browne (Maggie) in Maggie May. Photo by Zoe Martin

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