site search by freefind advanced

 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Mortimer Dramatic Society - Quartet

October 18th, 19th, 25th and 26th 2002.

From the Newbury Weekly News

Skilful characterisation

'QUARTET', performed by Mortimer Dramatic Society, at St John's Hall, Mortimer, on Friday, October 18, Saturday, October 19, Friday October 25 and Saturday, October 26

Is there really a home for retired opera singers? It sounds just about plausible, and Ronald Harwood's play deals with the changes to the lives of three of its inmates caused by the arrival of a fourth. The original three are coarse, loud, sex-obsessed Wilfred (Tom Shorrock), scatty and diffident Cecily (Shelley Warboys), and crusty but sensitive Reggie (Graham Jerome), and the newcomer is snobbish, bitchy Jean (Judy Winter), who was once married to Reggie.

There is not much plot, so the play depends on the development of the characters, which is achieved with a mixture of humour and pathos. This needs skilful acting, which we got from all of the cast. Tom Shorrock gave us loud-mouthed bluster, but he also showed us Wilfred's sensitive side when he was talking about his wife, or showing concern for Cecily.

Graham Jerome gave an excellent performance as the careful, thoughtful, meticulous one. His emotions were always bubbling just under the surface, and erupted hilariously when he vented his anger on the unseen nurse who wouldn't give him marmalade for breakfast. Jean's arrival, and her revelations of the details of their marriage, brought out the bitterness in his character.

Shelley Warboys had a difficult task with Cecily. The character veered between lucidity and confusion, brought about by the early stages of dementia. This was the big fear for the inmates - reaching the stage where they had to be moved on to another home - but to me Cecily seemed more eccentric than demented.

It's not easy playing the part of a much older person, but Judy Winter got it right with Jean. This was a very sensitive performance, showing a woman who had been a star finding it so hard to come to terms with her reduced status. Vulnerable and needing love and approval, she was on the edge of a breakdown but still not quite able to shake off her imperiousness (which reminded me at times of Mrs Thatcher).

The pace was rather slow in the middle of the play, but Mandy Grimwade's production had lots of laughs and a satisfying triumphant conclusion, and the high standard of the acting gave us an enjoyable evening.