Review: Quartermaine’s Terms, by Simon Gray, at the Wyndhams (starring Rowan Atkinson)

Rowan Atkinson as St John Quartermaine. Photo by Nobby Clark.

Rowan Atkinson as St John Quartermaine. Photo by Nobby Clark.

“I mean these things between people – people one cares for – it’s hard to bear them“. In the middle of the play, this words uttered by St John Quartermaine, land like a bomb. Quickly the moment passes. Most other characters try not to feel, and only care up to a point, they have considerations, alliances, careers, plans to distract them.  St John Quartermaine, played by Rowan Atkinson, has nothing but the staff room at this English school for foreigners.

Simon Gray’s play, written more than 30 years ago, is set in the fringes of Cambridge academia. Tweed jackets, heavy bookcases, leather chairs and croquet, but also frustration as none of these professors play with the big boys. In many other ways, it’s a depressingly modern workplace. Co-workers talk of lifelong friendships and bonds between them, but time and again practicalities get in the way.  Efficiency marches in, the weakest links are cut loose. Leave any man behind. Continue reading