Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Review Miserable manners done with panache

READING the synopsis you would think this play, set in the Sixties but written in the Eighties, is a bit of a wrist-slasher.

Brief summary: seven teachers in a Cambridge school of English spend a couple of hours whingeing about their miserable lives, while St John Quartermaine — the most useless teacher/lonely bachelor — saunters along a downward path that can only end in tragedy.

Despite this, Quartermaine’s Terms is actually more like a modern-day comedy of manners. The script sparkles with wit and the characters are so well drawn that by the end you feel bereft, as if having to bid farewell to a great circle of friends.

In the intimate setting of the Corn Exchange’s bijou theatre, the Sinodun Players did an impressive job of breathing life into a crew of motley characters — Mark the failed writer, Melanie the bitter spinster, Henry the pompous windbag, Derek the clumsy oaf, Eddie the secretly gay principal and Anita the downtrodden wife. David Treadwell made a hangdog St John who, despite being the kindest of the bunch, admits towards the end: “I’ve never had much to offer.” Normally, you’d want to slap someone like St John, but this play is so intricately crafted that you feel nothing but sympathy.

Mike Rowbottom made a great Henry Windscape, spewing forth grandiloquent soliloquys without missing a beat. “My daughter is just like me — she’s beginning to take an interest in philosophical speculation,” he intones, completely unaware that everyone has switched off.

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