Lakeside Arts
Part of University of Nottingham
Lakeside Arts

Photograph of Maurice Roëves on stage singing wearing a black hat and pale jacket

MAURICE ROËVES (1937-2020)

Sadly, Maurice Roëves passed away peacefully on Tuesday 14 July in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. I know from his wife Vanessa that he had received truly amazing care since being admitted to hospital following a massive stroke the previous Monday. I count myself as lucky to have known Maurice; he became part of Lakeside's extended family through his involvement in a number of seminal projects, and his passing has given me cause to recall some key moments in Lakeside's development.

He first appeared on our stage as the eponymous Tom Stevens in William Ivory's first ever piece of writing for the stage The Retirement of Tom Stevens back in March 2006.

Maurice Roeves in The Retirement of Tom Stevens, Lakeside Arts, 2006

Photo: Maurice Roëves ​as Tom with Denise Black as Mary in The Retirement of Tom Stevens, by William Ivory, performed March 2006, Lakeside Arts

Maurice starred alongside a wonderful cast of Denise Black, Tim Dantay, Elaine Glover and Simon Merrells. It was directed by Matt Aston, at that stage extending his original role as Theatre Programmer/Producer at Lakeside into his future career as a theatre director. Alan Geary summed it up when he wrote: 

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Maurice Roëves turns in a brilliant performance as broken patriarch Tom. Browbeaten for years in the job from which he’s just retired, he spent a lifetime taking it out on his family. But, since this play deals in real people and not stage ciphers, Roëves makes him sympathetic all the same."

Six years later in 2012 Stephen Lowe completed his trilogy of Lawrence inspired plays with Just a Gigolo, the story of Angelo Ravagli, whose affair with DH Lawrence’s wife Frieda inspired Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Stephen was also directing and cast Maurice as Ravagli, a one-time close supporter of fascist leader Mussolini who met the Lawrences in 1925 at their Italian villa, where the affair with Frieda began. After Lawrence’s death in 1930, at the age of 44, Ravagli left his wife and children to move in with Frieda, marrying her in 1950, and remaining with her until her death in 1956 when she left him some of Lawrence's paintings. Left Lion said Maurice was 

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perfectly cast in his role as the aging Italian lover. He gives dimension to a potentially dislikeable character and tells his story with wit and poignancy, briefly touching on jealousy, guilt and his grief after Frieda’s death. What’s more, Roëves has incredible stage presence and possesses the disarming ability to make an audience member feel as if he is talking directly to them..."

Produced by Maurice's wife, Vanessa Rawlings-Jackson, the production ran for a month at Edinburgh Fringe Assemby in 2012 prior to running a week at Lakeside in the October of that year.

Poster: Just a Gigolo, written and directed by Stephen Lowe, performed August (Edinburgh Fringe) and October 2012 (Lakeside Arts).

The following year we were delighted when Maurice was cast as Mr P in Tanya Myers ground-breaking production Inside Out of Mind – a partnership between the Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham, Meeting Ground Theatre Company and Lakeside Arts. The play reflected and was inspired by 600,000 words of ethnographic research – ‘Challenging Care: The role and experience of Health Care Assistants in NHS Dementia Wards’ prepared by Justine Schneider, Kezia Scales, Simon Bailey and Joanne Lloyd. It played to capacity audiences of dementia care workers as well as the general public and it definitively achieved its hope to 'make visible those deemed invisible, to give voice to the silent, and to touch the hearts and minds of wider audiences'. This production proved to be so impactful with audiences that two years later we were able to tour it nationally thanks to a successful National Lottery Funding bid. I will never forget looking out of the windows into the parkland behind Lakeside and seeing Maurice walking the grounds in full costume, going over his lines, isolating himself from others in order to fully inhabit the agitated and different world of Mr P prior to each performance.

As recently as last month, we were still working together. I wrote to Vanessa and Maurice to ask if Maurice might consider doing something for Nottstopping Festival, and the response was immediate and positive. The resultant short piece demonstrated Maurice's very candid and typically ascerbic wit at work in his very personal comment on the Covid crises and our international leaders as he quoted Burns' poem To A Louse.

With Maurice's passing, a light has gone out, but I will always remember him fondly, and I am hugely thankful for the opportunity we had at Lakeside to work with him, and know him as we did.

Shona Powell OBE
Director, Lakeside Arts


Top photo: Maurice Roëves ​as Mr. P, aka Gabriel Proust in Inside Out of Mind, written and directed by Tanya Myers, June 2013, Lakeside Arts