Salisbury Playhouse – until 17 March. Reviewed by Jo Gordon
Set in a lavish retirement home for aged musicians, Quartet introduces us to four senior opera singers who are struggling to settle into old age and the changes it brings with it. Wilfred Bond (Paul Nicholas) a rather randy fellow with an eye for the ladies, Reginald Paget (Jeff Rawle) a quiet man that just wants the simple pleasure of marmalade at breakfast and Cecily Robson (Wendi Peters) an eccentric, sweet woman who is struggling more and more to define past memories from the present and vehemently welcoming people home from Karachi all happily reside together chatting about the old days, coping with the new chapter in their lives and past loves lost. When a new resident arrives in the form of Reginald’s ex wife, the once revered singer Jean Horton (Sue Holderness) causes quite a stir and some upset until they plan to perform at an annual concert to celebrate Giuseppi Verdi’s (AKA Jo Green) birthday.
As strained relationships are healed and the four, in all their eccentric glory come together and overcome their fear of leaving their younger selves behind to the rally cry of “NSP” (no self pity), the show must go on!
A simple but beautiful set where I could easily imagine kaftan wearing, velvet clad thespians and opera stars wafting around regaling stories of the days they were at their peak and adored by the masses.
With an incredibly experienced cast (OK I will admit… I had a childhood crush on Paul Nicholas in his Just Good Friends era,I was more than excited to be in the same space as him!) and lots of very funny comedy moments, it makes for a wonderful production. Wilfred and Reginald deliberated about what is art and came to the conclusion that “Art is meaningless if it doesn’t make you feel” and I have to agree, you will experience a range of emotions throughout the play that will make you question your own outlook on growing older but it reminds you that despite the wear and tear on the outside there will always be a a 20 something soprano’s spirit within.