Play by Simon Gray. Set in the 1960s in an English language school for foreigners, this tragicomic play is a humorous but ultimately moving account of several years in the lives of seven teachers. At the heart of the group is St. John Quartermaine – kind, pleasant and agreeable, but utterly hopeless as a teacher. An almost permanent feature in the staff room, he’s always available to listen to the problems of his self-obsessed colleagues. But when a new Principal is appointed, Quartermaine's future looks precarious...
Original London West End Production with Edward Fox 1981
Previewed 28 July 1981, Opened 30 July 1981, Closed 20 February 1982 at the Queen's Theatre
The cast featured Edward Fox as 'St John Quartermaine', Prunella Scales as 'Melanie Garth', James Grout as 'Henry Windscape', Robin Bailey as 'Eddie Loomis', Glyn Grain as 'Derek Meadle', Peter Birch as 'Mark Sackling' and Jenny Quayle as 'Anita Manchip'.
Directed by Harold Pinter with designs by Eileen Diss and lighting by Leonard Tucker.
1st London West End Revival with Rowan Atkinson 2013
Previewed 23 January 2013, Opened 29 January 2013, Closed 23 April 2013 at the Wyndham's Theatre
The cast featured Rowan Atkinson as 'St John Quartermaine', Felicity Mantagu as 'Melanie Garth', Conleth Hill as 'Henry Windscape', Malcolm Sinclair as 'Eddie Loomis', Will Keen as 'Derek Meadle', Matthew Cottle as 'Mark Sackling' and Louise Ford as 'Anita Manchip'.
Directed by Richard Eyre with designs by Tim Hatley, lighting by David Howe and sound by John Leonard.
"It's odd that Rowan Atkinson has chosen to return to the stage as the neither funny nor interesting St John Quartermaine: a third-rate teacher at a language school... Atkinson fails to make Quartermaine a moving or lovably hopeless oddball. In spite of the character's generous forgiveness of his friends' rudeness, and his willingness to babysit his colleague Henry's unpleasant children, he's a bore. As are his colleagues... Fortunately, the acting is so accomplished that Richard Eyre's production is enjoyably rather than offensively tedious, but for all its witty depiction of quintessentially English repression, this isn't vintage Simon Gray." The Mail on Sunday
"The action takes place in the early Sixties in the staff room of a language school in Cambridge. The designer Tim Hatley's set wonderfully captures the dusty, leather- armchaired atmosphere. Enthroned in this room, the very genius of the place, sits Atkinson as the frankly hopeless tutor St John Quartermaine. Around him, gently ignoring his eccentricities, buzz his equally dog- eared colleagues, an impressive supporting cast of Malcolm Sinclair, Matthew Cottle, Felicity Montagu, Will Keen, Louise Ford and Conleth Hill. In keeping with its Chekhovian roots, Quartermaine's Terms is a story of lives quietly falling apart, of characters at the ends of their tethers... I'm a fan of the new writing, but there's a delight in watching a playwright so in control of his craft that he holds you riveted in a world where only the silence seems to scream." The Sunday Telegraph
"Simon Gray's 1981 tragicomedy revolves precisely around the British inability to connect. His lonely bachelor St John Quartermaine is so amiably vacant that he seems indistinguishable at times from his armchair. A useless, barely tolerated teacher at a Cambridge English language school, he can't remember his syllabus or any of his foreign students. Rowan Atkinson offers a restrained study in physical awkwardness; all hovering, too-large hands and bemused stares. He manages to convey despondent resignation to an empty life with nothing more than a quiet, soggy 'terrific' - always a beat behind the others. Around him swirls the chaos of the other teachers' lives, which keeps puncturing the paper-thin staffroom bonhomie. This first revival of Gray's play boasts an excellent cast while director Richard Eyre makes them fully inhabit this dingy 1960s world and pinpoint much of the worst of (middle-class) British in their brittle self-absorption - throwing into relief how tenderly offered Quartermaine's ineffectual concern actually is. Perfectly executed comic moments feed into Gray's slowly enveloping pall of melancholy. Nothing momentous happens onstage but it doesn't need to: as the mood darkens towards its heartbreaking conclusion, you are left with a satisfying fug of Chekhovian gloom and a moving portrait of isolation." The London Metro
Quartermaine's Terms in London at the Wyndham's Theatre previewed from 23 January 2013, opened on 29 January 2013 and closed on 23 April 2013.