In a recent poll by cinema-goers, Harold and Maude was rated one of the best films of all time. It has a reputation as a cult classic, full of dark humour and satire. I took a wander down to the Charing Cross Theatre to see how it would translate from screen to stage. Maude meets Harold (Patrick Walshe McBride) at a funeral – (neither of them having known the deceased) – and it sparks something within them both.
Maude (Linda Marlowe) is an almost-octogenarian who is full of joie de vivre, a happy-go-lucky hippy who comes across as slightly senile. She sees an opportunity and an experience in every situation that existence has to offer. You can’t help but feel happy when next to her- her attitude to everything is infectious. One particular aspect of Maude’s character is her belief in freedom. She is very disturbed by the idea of cages – whether it be animals in a zoo or humans in prison, such is the depth of her belief that she keeps a seal in her bath at home.
Harold is a young lad of 19, a loner with an obsession for death alongside a fondness for acting out his suicide attempts. He particularly likes to stage these acts at the most inappropriate times; for example when his mother invites blind dates from an internet dating site over to meet him (wherefore art thou Romeo?!).
It is of note that Harold began faking his own death as a way of attracting his mother’s attention, a woman who shows little affection. His relationship with Maude (although romantic towards the end of the play) largely strikes me as adopting a mother/son narrative where Harold is so desperately in need of the motherly love and guidance which Maude provides in abundance, that he doesn’t need to put on dramatic attention seeking displays.
It is painfully ironic that Harold spends his life consumed by the idea of death. By the time he outgrows this obsession, he is forced to deal with the passing of the only woman he has ever loved. It is tragically sad. It was also slightly uncomfortable watching a 19-year-old kissing a 79-year-old, romantically. It challenges the audience and made me question whether the fact that she’s an older woman is the problem. Would we feel differently if it were a younger woman and an older man?
The underlying tone of the play was that if you have the ability to make someone happy, you should do it; regardless of what out-dated precedents and beliefs might lead you to think.
The show closes May 12, 2018. You can book your Harold and Maude tickets here.
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