Quartermaine's Terms

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Quartermaine's Terms is a play by Simon Gray which won The Cheltenham Prize in 1982.

Plot[edit]

The play takes place over a period of two years in the 1960s in the staffroom at a Cambridge school for teaching English to foreigners. It deals with the interrelationship between seven teachers at the school, in particular that between St John Quartermaine and the others.

The dominant theme is loneliness, and during the course of the play all of the characters experience the trauma of being or feeling alone. Mark’s wife leaves him; Derek, from Hull, finds Cambridge initially unwelcoming; Eddie is ultimately bereaved by the loss of a partner; Anita’s husband is a philanderer; Henry is trapped in a dysfunctional nuclear family and Melanie is similarly trapped caring for a mother whom she despises. Quartermaine is a painfully lonely bachelor, seemingly with no friends other than his colleagues at the school.

Whilst the play is at times highly comic, it has a very serious theme; and the struggles of each character with their own types of loneliness are moving and sad. Above all, Quartermaine himself is an increasingly pathetic figure lost in his own confused thoughts – and ultimately deserted. His future as the play closes is poignantly bleak.

Productions and adaptations[edit]

Quartermaine's Terms
Directed by Bill Hays
Written by Simon Gray (play)
Simon Gray (adaptation)
Starring John Gielgud
Edward Fox
Eleanor Bron
Clive Francis
Tessa Peake-Jones
Peter Jeffrey
Paul Jesson
Music by Jeremy Nicholas
Release dates
1987
Country UK
Language English

A made-for-TV film version of Quartermaine's Terms was broadcast in 1987.

Character Portrayed Actor
Melanie Garth Eleanor Bron
St. John (pronounced Sinjin) Quartermaine Edward Fox
Mark Sackling Clive Francis
Eddie Loomis John Gielgud
Henry Windscape Peter Jeffrey
Derek Meadle Paul Jesson
Anita Manchip Tessa Peake-Jones
Oko-Ri Eiji Kusuhara


There was also a BBC Radio 3 production on 26 May 1991 (Producer G. House).


The play was presented on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday 17 June 2006.


A stage production starring Rowan Atkinson as Quartermaine and directed by Richard Eyre debuted in 2013, with performances at Brighton and Bath before a West End run at Wyndham's Theatre. The cast in March 2013 included Atkinson in the lead role, supported by Conleth Hill (Henry), Will Keen (Derek), Felicity Montagu (Melanie), Malcolm Sinclair (Eddie), Matthew Cottle (Mark), and Louise Ford (Anita). It was scheduled to run until 13 April.

External links[edit]