THE QUARTET. Written by Sir Ronald Harwood. Directed by Richard Digby Day with Delena Kidd. With Gary Raymond, Delena Kidd, Wanda Ventham and John Fraser. At Theatre on the Bay, Tuesday to Saturday until April 7. ASTRID STARK reviews
A QUARTET of very elderly, but rather stately, West End stars are injecting international flavour into Pieter Toerien’s Theatre on the Bay with their play about regret, despair, friendship, second chances and oodles of lust.
Three golden oldies are retiring at a home for musicians. They were all stars during their youth and often worked together.
The three reminisce about the past and bicker good-naturedly among themselves.
Wilfred, a randy old cad – fabulously portrayed by John Fraser – spends his days lusting after the rather dotty Cissy, Wanda Ventham.
They seem to have accepted their advanced age and humdrum retirement existence as their immovable fate. They are neither particularly happy nor desperately sad. Then Jean, played by Delena Kidd, arrives – a superstar during the prime of her life and the other half of Reginald’s unhappy marriage.
The status quo is turned upside down. Reginald, played by Gary Raymond, and Jean are at each other’s throats from the minute they set their eyes on each other and accusations fly when they start dredging up the past.
An opportunity arises and three of the former singers are overjoyed at the prospect of singing the third act quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto at a gala celebrating the composer’s birthday. One of them is determined to stop this from happening.
What follows is a funny and tender romp as they reflect on their lost youth and their capability to pull off Rigoletto.
I last saw Delena Kidd and Gary Raymond in the brilliantly witty and clever Dear Liar at the Theatre on the Bay three years ago.
They made a formidable and very watchable couple back then. And they still do. British actor Gary Raymond, who is known for his Hollywood roles in Look Back in Anger, El Cid and Jason and the Argonauts, completed his training at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the actor, now in his mid-seventies, still cuts a dashing figure.
His real-life wife of about 50 years, Delena Kidd, is excellent at portraying Jean, the bitter fallen star. She teems with anger and regret and takes it all out on the poor Reginald, who seems to be hovering around the edge of senility, but clearly still adores her. Kidd has a cult following for her roles in The Avengers and Danger Man.
I loved Jon Fraser’s Wilfred, who is turning back into a skirt-chasing teenager with a great lust for life and wicked sense of humour. Ventham’s Cissy is delightfully dotty and sweet.
Sir Ronald Harwood’s dialogue is beautifully written and very charming. Harwood has written 21 stage plays and 10 books. But he is mostly known for his screenplays for the films The Browning Version, The Dresser, Being Julia and Roman Polanski’s version of Oliver Twist.
It is a lovely piece of work that makes one reflect on one’s own life and impending old age.
Pieter Toerien used the opening night of Quartet to unveil a new artwork that he commissioned. Guy du Toit and Egon Tania’s gorgeous bronze sculpture now graces the entrance hall of Theatre on The Bay.
The sculpture is a near-life-sized figure of an actor taking a bow and simultaneously welcoming patrons into the theatre, and it really is beautifully and thoughtfully crafted.
Anna Mart van der Merwe unveiled the piece, yet another feather in the cap for Toerien, whose passion for the theatre seems boundless.
l Tickets are R80 to R160.To book, call Computicket at 0861 915 8000, or see www.com puticket.com, or call 021 438 3300.