The story takes place in a home for retired musicians and centres on four retired opera singers. Three old friends Cecily, Reg and Wilfred, who were quite famous in the opera world in their day, are enjoying their retirement, joking and reminiscing. They are also looking forward to 10th Oct, Verdi's birthday, when the centre will be having a concert in which the three will be performing together . However, their peace is destroyed with the arrival of Jean, an old friend of theirs who worked successfully on a Quartet with them many years ago. The problem is, she is/was not a nice person. Painful memories are brought to the surface again, particularly for Reg, who had a disastrous marriage to Jean.
"Quartet" is a beautiful and delightful play that is both funny and touching. It is full of wicked and saucy humour about growing old and about art. It is a play of hope and confidence for people who in their retirement fear they may no longer have much to offer. It is a play that shows that old people still have a zest for life and still have the same desires, needs and worries as they did when they were young.
The producers have brought together a well-known and talented cast. Donald Sinden is very funny as 'Wilfred'. His comic genius and timing is a joy to witness. There are many saucy jokes and innuendoes in the play, too many in my opinion, but Sinden carries them off so well you never really tire of them. The show is worth seeing for Donald Sinden's performance alone. There is a funny and touching performance from the very popular Stephanie Cole who plays 'Cecily', who is beginning to lose her faculties, confusing her day to day life with memories and dreams of India. Angela Thorne is equally convincing as 'Jean', a woman who is having a hard time coming to terms with her past and her future! The only weak part is Alex McCowen as 'Reg'. McCowen is a very experienced and accomplished actor, but for me he doesn't quite feel right in this part. The part requires the character to be reserved and pleasant one moment and then raging the next, but McCowen doesn't quite accomplish it convincingly enough for me. Anyway, this is only a minor point and does not distract from the enjoyment.
The show has received favourable reviews from the popular press. BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE of THE TIMES enjoyed the play saying, "The play seems well worth its slot at the Albery." CHARLES SPENCER of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "ALL my critical instincts tell me that Ronald Harwood's new play is terrible old tosh. Yet I often found myself laughing out loud, and there were even moments that brought a lump to the throat." ALASTAIR MACAULAY of THE FINANCIAL TIMES says it was "A rich dramatic reward." JOHN PETER of THE SUNDAY TIMES says, "These four glorious performances of warm, melancholy light comedy." However, NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD found it only adequate saying " This Quartet fails to hit the right note."
In my opinion "Quartet" is well worth seeing!