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! Working day in day out with the script, I see so much more complexity than is obvious at first glance. I see how being older doesn’t mean the end of hopes and dreams and challenging oneself to try something new. I see how supportive this group of people with a shared starry past have forged deep bonds that will see them through to death and maybe beyond.

The English Theatre Company has been working on the play for a few weeks now and its striking how the script still delights us, how we all still laugh at the lines, despite knowing what’s coming. The funny lines dance among the pain, despair and grief and are sharper, more dazzling because of the contrast.

My fellow actors are wonderful to work with. The characters we have been given match each actor with uncanny verisimilitude. Tim Caudery is the most serious among us, but he gives us the funniest lines in the play! You will never see marmalade in the same way, is all that I will say. Ian Warwick says terrible things, enough to make your hair curl, but is a pillar of strength for us all, whilst he is capering around. Maggie Crane is cantankerous
to a T, and plays a proper Diva, but by the end you will love her. Cissy, played by me, certainly does and I sense a proper camaraderie between the two characters by the time the curtain falls.

Rebecca Shields