Having seen some excellent plays performed by this theatre group, I went along to the first night of ‘Quartet’ expecting to be entertained. And I was not disappointed.
Ronald Harwood’s script itself has the potential to be rambling and at times apparently pointless, yet in the hands of the director Pat Ayles, and the cast of this production, the bitter-sweet emotions of growing older are portrayed at times touchingly, at times hilariously.
Set in Beecham House, a home for retired opera singers, the play introduces us to Wilfred, played with jovial verve by John Hammond, living proof that an interest in sex does not need to diminish with age. Cecily, or Cissy, frequently the object of his desires and daydreams, is beautifully portrayed by Martie Cain as a fragile and endearing lady, forgetfulness verging at times into the realms of fantasy. She provides some very funny moments but ultimately we are laughing with, rather than at her.
Also resident in the home is Reginald, art lover and perfect foil to the priapic Wilf. David Vince is perfectly cast as the apparently superior and unperturbable Reggie – apart from his intense and childish hatred of the ‘wardress’ who gives marmalade to everyone else but him at breakfast.
And apart from the fourth character who turns up to rock the calmness of the Beecham House boat: Jean, Reggie’s ex-wife and a bigger star than any of them. Glenys Lloyd-Williams brings just the right mix of hauteur and vulnerability to the role, and indeed all the characters are deeper than might at first appear, as we follow their attempt to recreate an aria they sang together many years ago for the upcoming celebrations of Verdi’s birthday.
The other credited cast member is Andrew Jenner as the much talked about Bobby Swanson – suffice to say he made an impact! The set spoke of retirement homes everywhere and the scene changes were efficient and did not impact on the story. Credit should also be given to the costumes, especially in the last scene, and the lovely portraits on set painted by Martie Cain.
I don’t wish to spoil the story, so I shall just say that the more we find out about the characters and their past, the more we understand about not only their own path to their present situations, but about how life treats each and everyone of us. If there is a moral to the story it could be not to judge others until you stand in their shoes – but who cares about the moral when the show is so entertaining?