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Ageing quartet still hitting the high notes

Quartet, Priory Theatre, Kenilworth, to November 2.

This Ronald Harwood play is set in a wonderfully decorated room in a retirement home for opera singers, where much of the time is spent organising singing events. In the opening sequence we meet Wilfred (Brian Goredema-Braid) a jokey man who makes continual references to sex. Sitting on the sofa is Cecily (Susi Walker) wearing her ear phones - fortunately for her she cannot hear what is being said.

Also nearby is Reginald (Graham Shurvinton), trying to read a book and looking very annoyed and embarrassed. However many times he tells Wilfred to stop talking in this way, he is ignored. These three regard themselves as the elite due to their past success, particularly in singing Verdi’s Rigoletto. Then we learn that Jean Horton (Juliet Grundy) a famous operatic soprano who was once married to Reginald, is about to move in to the home. She's ashamed to find herself in reduced circumstances, and Reginald is angry and upset that he must pass the remainder of his life with his estranged wife.

But once she has moved in, the Quartet are asked once again to sing Rigoletto.

As the play unfolds we learn more about each of the characters: Cecily is struggling with her memory. She keeps welcoming people back from Karachi, although no-one has been there. Reginald is still in love with Jean. Wilfred was a naughty man, and Jean - well, she has a secret... The play which focuses on the ageing process is clever and has some interesting and amusing lines: "Never ask how are you and what are your plans for today". There are some strong performances: Susi Walker is excellent and Juliet Grundy is convincing as the egotistical, dictatorial Jean. But Wilfred (Brian Goredema-Braid) has possibly the best lines. The play is well directed by John Evans and the scenery is wonderfully crafted. Although perhaps a bit dated, the play appealed to the audience who were greatly amused by it and certainly applauded loudly at the end.

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