Review: Did Di and Viv and Rose at the Hampstead Theatre impress all over again?
Review: Simon Stephens' Port at the National Theatre

Review: Rowan Atkinson in Quartermaine's Terms at the Wyndhams


Simon Gray's writing has a certain subtlety that means the tragedy can creep up on you unexpectedly. His 'dramody', Quartermaine's Terms, set in a 1960s foreign language school in Cambridge, despite some laugh out loud moments, is quite depressing and quietly tragic, in a very British way.

The seven teachers who flit in and out of the staff room over a period of 18 months are variously examples of unfulfilled ambition, missed opportunity, the jilted, the lonely and the put-upon.

There is one particular poignant moment when St John Quartermaine (Rowan Atkinson) has been let down by a colleague and supposed friend and for a second he aches with loneliness and rejection. But the problem is, it is just a moment.

Gray's tragedy is wrapped up in a very 60s style comedy and much of the humour is derived from that traditional British social awkwardness and ultra politeness that just seems a bit dated. Quartermaine, at one point, ends up with three invites for the same evening because he's too polite to say he's otherwise engaged and new teacher Derek Meadle (Will Keen) spends much of the first scene trying to cover up the fact he has ripped a hole in the seat of his trousers - it's just hackneyed.

And then there is Atkinson himself. He is an actor that has greater range than his recent character choices give room to demonstrate and I was really looking forward to seeing him on stage. There was too much - the licking of the lips, the rubber faced smile and raising of the eyebrows - that just screamed Mr Bean. It made it difficult to empathise with his predicament in fact his story arc was inevitable from quite early on.

While I can appreciate the quality of Gray's writing and Quartermaine did have a handful of moments that rang with laughter or tragedy, overall it felt a little bit old hat and stuffy.

Quartermaine's Terms is on for a limited season at the Wyndhams Theatre until 13 April. For an alternative view you can read Poly's review.


Thought I'd go for Rowan Atkinson as he's the star which was much easier than I thought mainly because he's been in a couple of classic, mega-cast Brit-com's: Four Weddings and Love Actually. In the former was also Hugh Grant who is in Cloud Atlas with Mr W and in the latter Alan Rickman is the connection via Perfume: Story of  Murderer.