Birmingham and Tour
Quartet: Ronald Harwood
Birmingham Rep Theatre, The House, and Touring
Runs: 2h 35m, one interval
Bham Rep BO: 0121 236 4455
Review: Rod Dungate, 08 03 18
Something lovely to share with friends
Ronald Harwood’s play Quartet really entered the public consciousness with the filmed version. Which was as lovely as it was starry. However, there is nothing that can beat live performance and this live performance is glorious. It’s interesting to note, too, that the way the story is concluded (the use of the Rigoletto quartet) is much stronger in the play than the film – more realistic and more meaningful.
Quartet is set in a retirement home for musicians and the action takes place on the terrace, any area informally reserved for a group of retired opera singers. The plot is as gentle as the action, and moves towards the climax – a concert all the folks give in celebration of Verdi’s birthday. But in dramas small events can have big meanings, and so it is with Harwood’s exquisitely created play.
For although this is a gentle comedy it celebrates age, or coming to age, with all its quirks and challenges. And just in case things become too sentimental, Harwood skilfully subverts the moment opening up humour and muscle. The ending of the first half, for instance, is marvellous.
This is a four-hander and each actor fills out their character, creating a drama quartet of shifting themes, repetitions and contrasting leitmotifs. As the relationships shift and develop the play, in performance, has the power to work on many emotional levels at once.
This is a rich and fulfilling drama. Huge topics gently opened up for examination and a glorious sense of closure at the end. As the play informs us, things cannot be art if they do not make us feel; Quartet is certainly art.
Wilfred Bond: Paul Nicholas
Reginald Paget: Jeff Rawle
Cecily Robson: We ndi Peters
Jean Horden: Sue Holderness
Director: Peter Rowe
Designers: Phil R Daniels and Charles CusickSmith
Lighting Designer: Michael E Hall
Sound Designer: Steve Anderson
Musical Arranger: : Matt Bugg
Assistant Director: Liam Blain