ROWAN ATKINSON played the title role in Quartermaine’s Terms to great acclaim when it was produced in the West End last year, and Sinodun Players’ production of Simon Gray’s poignant comedy drama at Wallingford Corn Exchange promises to be as memorable, writes Carol Evans.
While loneliness may be the underlying theme of Gray’s award-winning play, it is anything but depressing. It sparkles with wit, humour and extremely funny situations alongside pathos and eccentricity.
The setting is the staff common room of a language school for foreign students in Oxford during the Sixties, where the rarefied atmosphere conceals a simmering hotbed of seething emotions.
The action takes place over a four-year period during which time we see how the chaotic lives of a group of six teachers and the school’s co-principal are gradually falling apart.
At the centre of it all sits teacher St John Quartermaine, a lonely bachelor who is a sympathetic listener when his colleagues rant about their lot. The rest of them just talk too much, and are far too engrossed in themselves and their own problems to pay heed to anyone else’s.
The kindly but absent-minded Quartermaine is the only one who tries to help them with their demons but, sadly, with little success.
Director Graham Fyffe says: “It is a beautifully written play about characters one really cares about. And because it takes place over four years, we have the opportunity of seeing how the people in it develop and change over time.
“While there is a cast of seven, there are many more disparate off-stage characters involved as well and they also evolve along with their on-stage counterparts. Like Greek drama, most events take place offstage which provides the actors with great opportunities to recreate these events for the benefit of the audience.”
Mike Rowbottom, who plays the verbose head of studies Henry Windscape, added: “It is a very funny script which the director is skilfully exploiting for all its humour and pathos — and there’s a lot of both. It’s a talented and committed cast. This will be a memorable show.”
• Performances take place from April 2 to 5 at Wallingford Corn Exchange at 7.45pm. Box office: (01491) 825000 or visit www.corn exchange.org.uk