Tuesday, 6 October 2009


This term, as well as a change of venue, we also had a change of Competition Secretary, with Elizabeth Yuill abandoning us for the lush pastures of Hamburg, where she is playing in Ronald Harwood's Quartet. As well as one review that described her as "zauberhaften" ( that's "magical" for all you non-polyglots ) there's also one in the Hamburg Express. For those who can't be bothered to register, here it is in full:

"Last Thursday, September 11, the English Theatre of Hamburg premiered the new play of the season - Quartet, by Ronald Harwood. The play is set in a retirement home for opera singers and addresses both the troubles of getting old and the nostalgia for former success. Ronald Harwood, having worked both as an actor and backstage, created a sort of insider story that gives meaning to the transition from youth to old age.

The play begins with three old opera singers, Cissy, Wilf and Reggie, going about their usual business, which includes jokes about sex intertwined with reflections on the meaning of art. Soon they are shaken up by the arrival of a major star Jean, who was once unhappily married to Reggie. The reason for divorce and the length of the marriage remain a mystery until the end of the play.

The plot takes off as the three try to persuade the newcomer to sing with them the Quartet from Rigoletto, which they once were famous for, during Verdi's Anniversary Gala. The story is complete with reflections on the past and the mistakes of youth, as well as many insights into the sexual life of the characters, which gives it a certain edge.

One of the challenges for the actors was to seem convincingly old, both in speech and in actions. While they repeated themselves regularly and portrayed vividly the typical outbreaks of paranoia, their movements were less influenced by their characetrs' age. The result was that the mental lapses seemed almost too much in the absence of physical disabilities.

Nevertheless, the actors performance struck well with the audience. Elizabeth Yuill as the lively Cissy appeared most "mentally affected" and also most good-humoured. Both Alan Booty, as sexually-preoccupied Wilf, and Stephen von Schreiber, playing the austere Reggie, added a note of sensitivity to their characters. While Jean, played by Katrina Norbury, remained a diva despite the old age.

Finally, the actors gave a great opera performance at the end of the play, lip-singing to a record. The lights and the sound transformed the modest set, and the final act appeared both emotional and convincing. I believe it was the most important aspect of the play, because had it been any less powerful, the idea of art transcending through age would have been lost among the comicality of being old".

I think that just about qualifies as a rave. Anyway, get your skates on over to Germany.

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