A new revival of the classic Ronald Harwood play, Quartet, with a star-studded cast is currently on tour in the UK.
Quartet tells the story of four ageing former opera stars, residing in a care home. In their youth, they all worked together. Two were once married – though it ended badly. Reggie, Wilfred, Cissy and Jean reflect on their lives with stories of love, laughs and loss as they dispel their differences to perform one more time as the star event at an annual birthday gala.
With an all-star cast featuring Paul Nicholas, Wendi Peters, Sue Holderness and Jeff Rawle, this classic play on age and fame receives a new lease of life. Nicholas as the cheeky Reggie is a real highlight, infusing the role with a kind of easy charm and humour. Sue Holderness’ scenes with Wendi Peters and Jeff Rawle are also excellent, bringing out the sensitive, gentle cores of all characters involved. These were compelling and intimate moments, situated well within the the dialogue.
Quartet is a sincere and amusing take on the experience of ageing, bustling with honest jokes about getting older. It tells fond stories of four intertwining lives, brought together by a shared love for music. There are stories of irresponsible youth, failed marriages and infidelity. The joy of a show with an older cast is that these characters have a lot of perspective on the world and the human experience. Although this is a story of another generation, it celebrates the human experience in way in which those from all backgrounds can respond.
That’s not to say that everything in this revival works. Some jokes feel dated in 2018. Wilfred, for all of Nicholas’ nuance, does on occasion cross the line into uncomfortable territory with his sexual remarks. The portrayal of Cissy as a barmy old woman losing her marbles sometimes feels like dehumanisation and laughing at Cissy because of her age and deterioration leaves a sour taste in the mouth. That said, this does seem lessen as the play continues.
The set is suitably lavish yet comfortable, as one might expect from a care home for the stars. The impressive surroundings of Richmond Theatre, where we saw Quartet, is the perfect place for such a piece. The care home feels like it could be next door.
For fans of classical music and opera, Quartet includes many references to famous works that will entertain even the slightest of fans of the materials. Some base knowledge may be required, and some more obscure references may fly over the heads of the younger audiences.
Quartet runs at Richmond Theatre until April 14 before continuing its national tour.
Thanks also to Susy Brett who attended for us and guest posted. Find her normal twitter adventures at @susybumblebee