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 (pronounced 'Sinjon') 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 with seemingly no friends or hinterland 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 type 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 ...... Eleanor Bron
- Quartermaine ...... Edward Fox
- Mark ...... Clive Francis
- Eddie ...... John Gielgud
- Henry ...... Peter Jeffrey
- Derek ...... Paul Jesson
- Anita ...... Tessa Peake-Jones
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
There was also an earlier BBC Radio 3 production on 26 May 1991 (Producer G. House)
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, Will Keen, Felicity Montagu, Malcolm Sinclair, Matthew Cottle, and Louise Ford. It is scheduled to run until late April.
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