An all-star line-up performs in the theatrical comedy ‘Quartet’ by Ronald Harwood.
By Lucy Spittle
The red curtains are drawn back and the audience finds itself transported back to the late 20th century in a country house in Kent. The curtains reveal a grand music room scattered with comfy armchairs, a grand piano and a garden terrace – a perfect setup for a retreat for four retired opera singers. But these are not your normal pensioners. Against growing old, long-term friends Reggie, Wilfred and Cecily find themselves stuck in a retirement home with little plans to fulfil their long and never-ending days.
The signs of aging are represented in all characters; Cecily played by Wendi Peters is simply hilarious: a bubbly character showing signs of forgetfulness, she spends most of her time stalking the young and attractive gardener, Nobby. Cecily is greatly admired by Wilfred, played by Paul Nicholas a character packed full of rude one-liners and inappropriate thoughts towards Cecily and women in general. Then there’s Reggie, played by Jeff Rawle, an eccentric gentleman with an angry temperament towards the anonymous care worker (who forgets to buy marmalade for his toast); it’s the little things that set Reggie off.
The story unfolds when news of a famous resident is due to arrive: little do they know they will be re-united with their fourth Quartet member Jean Horton, played by Sue Holderness.
Her arrival resurfaces old memories of her past marriage with Reggie and chaos unfolds. Jean plays a successful woman with a secret surrounding her early retirement; she’s stubborn and borderline snobby. Jean is thrown into the mix and has become another ‘in mate’ in the house.
With an invitation to perform at the Annual Gala concert, and with just four months to practise their once-famous performance, the four singers experience self-doubts, vocal nightmares, age concerns and more comical mishaps. Once they overcome these obstacles, they realise their age is just a number. The Quartet takes to the stage in their original wacky costumes and mime a flawless performance: a hilarious and exceptional end to the show!
The comedy element surrounding the characters’ later stage of life is cleverly written with a NSP rule (No Self Pity) and a ban against asking: ‘what are your plans for today?’ This is a comical and fun take on growing old disgracefully which makes it so enjoyable to watch! All credits to the wonderful star cast and everyone involved – a performance most definitely worthy of the main stage!