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
|Directed by||Bill Hays|
|Written by||Simon Gray (play)
Simon Gray (adaptation)
|Music by||Jeremy Nicholas|
A made-for-TV film version of Quartermaine's Terms was broadcast in 1987.
|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|
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.
- Quartermaine ...... Michael Palin
- Anita ...... Francesca Faridany
- Mark ...... James Fleet
- Eddie ...... Clive Francis
- Derek ...... Andrew Lincoln
- Henry ...... David Yelland
- Melanie ...... Harriet Walter
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.
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