By Zoe McMillan
Quartet – a four piece ensemble, as the name would suggest, written by Ronald Harwood and directed by Tess Richards.
The play draws us unapologetically into the world of four veteran opera singers, all previously known to each both professionally & intimately, who have been brought together once more in a retirement home for aging musicians of calibre & success.
An unashamed – no shameless vehicle for four feisty old troupers whose task is to make us laugh a little, sigh a little & cry a little as they lead us into the bittersweet world of facing up to age & mortality. For an audience plucked largely from a culture & society preoccupied with delaying aging & staying younger for longer, a society in which death is probably the last real taboo, Quartet made for uncomfortable viewing at times as the themes of death and mortality were explored in all their guises. “I used to be somebody once” said Jean…”I think I still am aren’t I?” asked Cissy.
Whether they’re making you laugh, cry or contemplate, the players of Quartet definitely make you feel and that is where its strength lies. It touches a chord; it pulls at your strings & examines your own insecurities about aging & mortality. It’s good art right there, as art is meaningless if it doesn’t make you feel.
Richards makes some clever set design decisions, setting the scene simply & sparsely, alluding to the surroundings of a retirement home with dated furniture that has seen better days (just like it’s inhabitants). This benefits the play two-fold. It keeps scene changes and prop shifting to an unobtrusive minimum and allows the audience to focus on the real stars of the piece, the actors.
It is the four thespians that grab and hold your attention, both together & each in turn with laughs echoing around the theatre from the delivery of the opening line & throughout.
Wilf, played by Martin Turner endears himself to the audience immediately with his cheeky nuances & racy one liners but it’s in his quiet moments of musing and retrospective that he really holds the audience; you could hear a pin drop.
Cissy played by Jax Brady, a long-time supporter of the Wharf theatre also captivated the audience and commanded the stage, even managing to steal your attention from the background with no dialogue. She captures the warmth and innocence of Fussy so convincingly that you feel defensive of her when others are misguiding her or mean to her.
Lewis Cowan as Reggie and Louise Peak as the notorious Jean also deserve mention for the light, shade & depth they bring to their roles and to the play as a whole. In short, it’s impossible to pick out any one character or actor from the four that steals the show; superbly cast by Tess Richards, Quartet is an ensemble in its truest sense as the four protagonists come together to make beautiful music that strikes a chord and resonates on a fundamental level with the audience and leaves you wanting more as the finale leaves you wanting more.
I thoroughly recommend a trip to the Wharf theatre this week if you have an evening free. The show runs from Friday 3rd Nov – Saturday 11th November. Performances start at 19.30. For tickets click here.