Charles Essex reviews Quartet at the Priory Theatre, Kenilworth
Set in the sitting room of a home for retired musicians and singers, this play highlighted the fading of talents and faculties with age. In a humorous way the cast of four showed different ways of facing the dying of the light, a true portrayal of ageing and retirement.
Cissie was wonderfully played by Susi Walker as a joyfully eccentric character, sadly because of early dementia not realising what she was forgetting, yet surprising us with reminiscences about her unhappy childhood. Straight-laced Reggie (Graham Shurvinton) contrasted with the innuendo of what turned out to be all-mouth-and-trousers of Wilfred (Brian Goredema-Braid).
The arrival at the home of diva Jean (Juliet Grundy), who had briefly been married to Reggie, put the cat among the pigeons and disrupted their peaceful gentle retirement.
Yet it brought together the singers who had had such success decades earlier with the quartet from Act 3 of Verdi’s Rigoletto, so why not repeat their triumph for the retirement home’s show to celebrate Verdi’s birthday? Jean, still narcissistic even though she had not been on stage for 30 years, wanted to remember herself as she was with curtain calls and standing ovations, and refused to participate. As they discussed hurts, forgiveness, loss of status and memories both funny and sad, they accepted the hand that Life had dealt them.
There were several first night lapses with the prompt gainfully employed throughout although sometimes intervening a little too quickly. Paradoxically the audience loved these four senior citizens forgetting what they were saying! Of course the play finished with the cast lip-syncing as they ‘sang’ the quartet. Juliet Grundy had clearly rehearsed the words of this aria and gestures of an opera singer and really looked the part.
* Quartet runs until November 2. Visit priorytheatre.co.uk to book.