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New Era Theatre Club - Quartet

14th to 23rd March 2013.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Gentle little charmer

New Era Players: Quartet, at the New Era Theatre, from Thursday, March 14 to Saturday, March 23

A simple set of two garden benches with a predominantly grey background focuses the audience's attention on the four characters in Ronald Harwood's play though at first we were introduced to only three residents of Beecham House, a home for retired stars from the world of opera.

Confused, endearing Cissy (Pamela Hillier-Brook), self-confessed luster after women Wilfred (Roger Follows) and the dapper Reginald (Tim Oldham) have all been icons in their day and are looking forward to taking part in the Home's annual celebration of Verdi's birthday.

When a new guest turns out to be Reggie's ex-wife Jean (Sue Keer) the cat is firmly put among the pigeons with Reggie throwing a hissy fit that he wasn't told of her arrival. What's more, Jean refuses to be part of the quartet which her fellow guests want to sing in the concert and the three do what they can to change her mind and revive their past glory. Jean finally confesses she has lost her voice and the four decide to secretly resort to miming.

This is not a dynamic play, more a gentle, audience-friendly charmer with very funny dialogue which is occasionally nostalgic though seldom self-pitying (NSP is the rule). Elegant Jean is horrified at living in a place where a beeper must be taken when walking in the nearby bluebell woods and constantly harks back to her illustrious days - reminiscences which on one occasion are interrupted by the call to lunch and an admonishment to hurry up or "all the mashed potato will be gone."

Director Nigel Winter chose his cast well, the four actors maintain their very different characters superbly and the dialogue moves naturally and slickly along, with only a rare hesitation.

The volatile Reggie, furious at not being given marmalade for breakfast, Cissie constantly thinking people have just returned from Karachi, Wilfred reluctantly confessing that actually he had been a faithful husband and Jean remembering that the priest who married Reggie and herself had "the haunted look of a child molester" - the audience loved them all.

I came out of the theatre thinking "Ah, bless them!". It was that sort of play, and extremely enjoyable.