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Rowan Atkinson is St John Quartermaine not Mr Bean
Simon Gray's Quartermaine's Terms (at the Wyndham's Theatre) dates back to 1981, but takes place during the early 1960s in the staff room of a Cambridge language school. Of the seven characters in the play, six are teachers, and the seventh, Eddie, is the co-principal.
Quartermaine's Terms (Image Courtesy of Nobby Clark)
Rowan Atkinson's St John Quartermaine, the protagonist, is an ineffectual teacher, who never seems to leave his comfortable leather armchair. As the scenes, and the months, unfold more is learned about the staff and their private lives; whatever takes place during the working day, is juxtaposed against their home lives. Eddie (Malcolm Sinclair) is a patrician who regards the teaching staff as his family, although never seeming to appear to connect with them. Henry (Conleth Hill) appears affable and fulfilled on the surface, but is struggling with difficulties with his teenage daughter. Derek (Will Keen) is the newest recruit, a clumsy man, and one who cares deeply about his students. Melanie (Felicity Montagu) has a precarious relationship with her ailing mother. Mark (Matthew Cottle) is a failed writer with marital problems, and Anita (Louise Ford) also has a troubled marriage.
The play takes us back into a period before language schools received such a bad press for encouraging illegal immigrants into this country, often arranging Visas for 'students' who have no intention of studying. Quartermaine's colleagues are a group of people, who regard themselves as friends, but who have trouble connecting. They are on the whole good at their jobs, with the exception of the main character. Early on in the play we are told of his amazing abilities not to let the world impinge on him and that is the key to the man, an ultimately tragic figure, whose head finally leaves the clouds as he accepts the person he is.