Cissy’s Swan Song

I act normal, look normal (for me) and am doing all the things I normally do, but I feel very different inside. Preparing for Quartet has taken up so much of my energy and time and to suddenly be the other side of this extraordinary experience is odd, to say the least.

I feel relieved I can lay down the heavy weight of my lines. There is suddenly space inside my head for thoughts, time on my hands to read books, a comfy sofa to lounge on to catch up with Netflix and yet….
I miss Cissy!

By the end of the run I really ‘got’ her and liked her.… Read the rest

Sir Ronald Harwood author of Quartet

One of the great delights of acting, is bringing to life the written word. Allowing it to breathe, to move and to fulfil its destiny. The author is of course the start of it all.

So let’s take a peek at Ronald Harwood, or should I say Sir Ronald Harwood, the author of Quartet. He was born Ronald Horwitz in Capetown, South Africa in 1934 and came to Britain in 1951 to work in the theatre. He wanted to become an actor from a very young age and this steadfast ambition led him to study at Rada in London. He was married to Natasha Riehle, an assistant stage manager, in 1959.… Read the rest

Quartet in rehearsal by the English Theatre Company

If you asked someone who saw the 2012 film Quartet if they remembered it, you would see them pause for a moment and then they would say something like ‘Oh yes, that film about the retired opera singers! Then they would add: ‘yes, that one with Billy Connolly in!’ or they might remember it had Pauline Collins in, or Maggie Smith, but either way, they would remember the film fondly; and rightly so!

When I watched Quartet, I couldn’t work out how a film with a huge cast could be shoe -horned into a play with only four people, but it really does work!… Read the rest

Quartet

Cecily, Reggie and Wifred, all famous opera singers in their day, are now spending their golden years in a comfortable retirement home for musicians.
Marmalade loving Reggie takes life very seriously. He is proud of the fact he is the only one who has paid for his lodgings. Cecily an ardent listener of music, totters through the French windows to spy on the gardener whenever he takes off his shirt. Wilfred is a roué with a one-track mind; more like a well fertilised dirt track. The three of them rub along pretty well, sharing their musical memories, until this comfortable existence is thrown into confusion by the arrival of Jean, another opera singer, once married to Reggie.… Read the rest

Chris’s Life Backstage

12/12/2023

The big day has come. We’re all backstage in the dark, in full dress just waiting, waiting, waiting, quietly revising our lines, whilst our audience arrives to enjoy their pre-performance drinks. Oh – how we could do with one right now! And then the stage lights come on. All goes quiet. Our Director goes on to make his opening announcements. But, wait a wee minute, he’s reading them from a sheet of paper. The cheek of it! He’s been bullying us into learning our lines and acting our parts for the last three months and he’s actually reading his announcement from a sheet of paper!… Read the rest

Another weeks flies …

30/11/2023

Another week flies by. Are we any better? Any more polished? Any slicker? Are our Mid-West accents any more believable?
Our dear Director doesn’t really think so but I, for one (maybe the only one), believe we are making progress against all odds.
So far we haven’t managed to get the entire cast in the same place at the same time for a single rehearsal and, you know what – it might never happen until the day of the performance. Covid, shingles, colds, hospital and dental appointments, breakdowns (not mental), dead motorbikes, work, holidays, you name it, have all conspired to have us forever acting our individual parts whilst at the same time reading-in for absent friends.… Read the rest

Life Backstage 3

14/11/2023

What’s it like being a part time, useless, amateur actor then?
Are we all sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
It all kicks off at around 3am. You wake up to banish the Dad’s Army nightmares and the ghost of Denis Norden and then the seismometer needle gives a definite shake and tremble. So, at five past three, you start revising your lines. The trouble is that about half way through you fall asleep only to wake up with a jolt to start the whole process again. At around 4 o’clock you fall back asleep again, exhausted, but content in the knowledge that you’ve remembered your lines at the tenth attempt, only to be woken again at 7 o’clock by your dear wife requiring her morning cuppa and demanding to know what you were thrashing around in bed about half the night.… Read the rest

Life Backstage 2

10/11/2023

It seems like a long time – a month. But that’s only 3 rehearsals away until we’re all thrown in at the deep end. Vague tremors of panic start to set in. The seismometer needle has just started to quiver and we cannot ignore it. The earthquake of performance day is just around the corner. The tsunami is building. My well rehearsed lines have escaped me to be replaced by well known quotes from “Dad’s Army” – Corporal Jones’s “Don’t panic, don’t panic” or worse, Private Frazer’s “We’re doomed! We’re all doomed”. Then Denis Norden makes an appearance with the reassuring words “It’ll be alright on the night”.… Read the rest

Life Backstage:

6/11/2023

Life backstage really starts with no stage at all, just a few thin wooden battens taped to the floor of our rehearsal hall. We’re told that these represent the margins of the stage and the set. The gaps between the battens represent the entrances and exits. The batten along the front is supposed to be the edge of the stage and we mustn’t cross it. Hilarity strikes when we inevitably do just that, or inadvertently walk through an imaginary wall. It’s all a bit Harry Potterish in the initial stages of our rehearsals but we quickly get used to it.… Read the rest

Chris Sutton comments on ETC…

30/10/2023

One day, back in the long distant past, before roll-on deodorants or hovercraft were invented and before Hemingway had written “The Old Man and the Sea”, I had the misfortune to be born in Bonny Soggy Scotland. That was the start of a life-changing series of adventures and misadventures that eventually led me to the South of France where, inevitably, I had to wear the kilt at special functions and to sing the odd Scottish song at Burns Nights organised by other British ex-pats. So far, so good.

But then, calamity! At one such informal gathering, my terrible singing was overheard by a lovely wee blond lady called Nancy.… Read the rest