More than just a gigolo?

October 15th, 2012

Maurice Roëves has a reputation for playing Scottish hardmen. But he admits to feeling a little “scared” by his latest role.

The 75-year-old is the sole star in acclaimed playwright Stephen Lowe’s Just a Gigolo, the third in Lowe’s DH Lawrence trilogy, following on from Fox And The Little Vixens and Empty Bed Blues.

And a one-man show brings its fair share of pressure. “It can be more mentally tiring than physical — it all depends on how you approach the work and the method that you use to absorb the lines so that eventually they come out not just as lines but actual thoughts,” says Maurice.

“This most definitely is not a monologue but a play.”

The star of Damned United — the film about Brian Clough’s disastrous spell at Leeds United before he took the helm at Nottingham Forest — explains: “With this role I am attempting to employ not only my theatre technique but also movie technique.”

He plays Italian soldier Angelo Ravagli, whose affair with DH Lawrence’s wife Frieda inspired Lady Chatterley’s Lover; he is thought to be the inspiration for Oliver Mellors, she, the Lady.

Ravagli was a one-time close supporter of fascist leader Mussolini and 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.

Written and directed by Stephen Lowe, produced by Maurice’s wife, Vanessa Rawlings-Jackson, Assembly and Lakeside Arts Centre, Just a Gigolo has already aired at the Edinburgh Festival earlier this year.

“The festival was hard as audiences were small mainly due, I think, to the Olympics.  Edinburgh just did not seem to have that ‘festival air’ about it. Back in the distant past, I performed a one-man play there at the Richard Demarco Gallery which was called There was a Man, about Robert Burns, the Scots poet and philosopher.”

“My wife Vanessa had been pushing me to do another one-man play but I didn’t want to do a production that someone else had already performed; I wanted to do a new play. Working on something else with Stephen, we had got talking and I thought it sad that no one had ever done anything on Angelo Ravagli; it was time to bring him into the limelight too and out of the shadow of Lawrence.

“Vanessa ended up having to produce this escapade and Stephen had the job of writing it. The difficulty of the play is the challenge it presents and that’s therefore the attraction. Theatrical suicide!”

The play tells how Ravagli tries to sell off nine of Lawrence’s Forbidden Paintings, including Rape of the Sabine Women, Holy Family and Nymphs and Fauns, left to him by Frieda after her death in 1956.

Although tame by today’s standards, the paintings were censored in 1929 and Lawrence had them removed from the UK; they are now on display in Taos, New Mexico.

Prints of the paintings — still officially banned from being publicly displayed in Britain — will form the backdrop to the play. So, technically, could Lakeside be prosecuted for displaying them?

“They did not arrest us or attempt to stop the performances up in Edinburgh which is a pity as we could have used the publicity,” says Maurice. “Let’s hope that Lakeside has more luck, huh?”

Maurice has more than a little affection for Ravagli and his love of la dolce vita. His marriage to Frieda was longer and, by all accounts, more fulfilling and passionate than her marriage to Lawrence.

“He was mischievous and he loved life. I think he and Frieda had a much deeper relationship than that of just lovers and indeed I think probably deeper than the one she had with Lawrence; after all they were together twice as long as she was with Lawrence.

“Lawrence and Frieda had a relationship of theory but not very successful practically, whereas Frieda and Angelo had a very healthy physical relationship as well as a full understanding of why, which Lawrence could not grasp in practice.”

Maurice is known for his strong, Glaswegian accent, and has played many a hard man. But he was actually born in Sunderland. “I left Sunderland before I learned to speak! The streets of Glasgow became my Academy of Life.”

So has nailed the Italian accent? “Someone thought I sounded like an ice-cream seller. That’s pleased me as they are not-a-so-good with the English, you know??”

Just a Gigolo, starring Maurice Roëves, is at Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside Arts Centre, from Tuesday 23 October to Sunday 27 October. Tickets are £15, £12 concessions and £9.50 restricted view. The play is suitable for 16 years upwards. Call the box office on: 0115 846 7777 or visit:

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