Quartermaine's Terms

Quartermaine's Terms is a play by Simon Gray which won The Cheltenham Prize in 1982.[1]

Quartermaine's Terms
Poster original West End production
Written bySimon Gray
Date premiered30 July 1981
Place premieredQueen's Theatre, London
Original languageEnglish
Official site


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 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, seemingly with no friends 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 types 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.

Original production

It was first staged on 30 July 1981 at the Queen’s Theatre, London.[2]

St. John QuartermaineEdward Fox
Anita ManchipJenny Quayle
Mark SacklingPeter Birch
Eddie LoomisRobin Bailey
Derek MeadleGlyn Grain 
Henry WindscapeJames Grout
Melanie GarthPrunella Scales
Critical reception

The Stage wrote, "Simon Gray has written the best play of his notable career, a delicate, moving and yet consistently funny piece, eloquently directed by Harold Pinter, which depicts the English penchant for quiet suffering with immense skill."[3]


The play was staged on 24 February 1983 at Playhouse 91 Theater, New York in a production by Long Wharf Theatre.[4]

St. John QuartermaineRemak Ramsay
Anita ManchipCaroline Lagerfelt
Mark SacklingKelsey Grammer
Eddie LoomisRoy Poole Derek
MeadleAnthony Heald 
Henry WindscapeJohn Cunningham
Melanie GarthDana Ivey
  • Producers: John A. McQuiggan & Ethel Watt 
  • Director: Kenneth Frankel
Critical reception

The New York Times called it "a play that is at once full of doom and gloom and bristling with wry, even uproarious comedy. The mixture is so artfully balanced that we really don't know where the laughter ends and the tears begin: the playwright is in full possession of that Chekhovian territory where the tragedies and absurdities of life become one and the same."[5]  

TV adaptation

Quartermaine's Terms
Written bySimon Gray (play)
Simon Gray (adaptation)
Directed byBill Hays
StarringJohn Gielgud
Edward Fox
Eleanor Bron
Clive Francis
Tessa Peake-Jones
Peter Jeffrey
Paul Jesson
Theme music composerJeremy Nicholas
Country of originUK
Original language(s)English
CinematographyJohn McGlashan
Original release29 March 1987

A film was broadcast on BBC Two in 1987, as part of the Screen Two series.[6][7]

Melanie GarthEleanor Bron
St. John (pronounced Sinjin) QuartermaineEdward Fox
Mark SacklingClive Francis
Eddie LoomisJohn Gielgud
Henry WindscapePeter Jeffrey
Derek MeadlePaul Jesson
Anita ManchipTessa Peake-Jones
Oko-RiEiji Kusuhara

Radio adaptations

St. John QuartermaineMichael Williams
Henry WindscapePeter Jeffery 
Eddie LoomisRobin Bailey
Melanie GarthMarcia Warren 
Mark SacklingNigel Anthony 
Anita ManchipHelena Breck 
Derek MeadleJon Strickland   
  • Director: Gordon House
QuartermaineMichael Palin
AnitaFrancesca Faridany
MarkJames Fleet
EddieClive Francis
DerekAndrew Lincoln 
HenryDavid Yelland
MelanieHarriet Walter

West End revival

The play opened at Wyndham’s Theatre on 23 January 2013, after brief runs at Theatre Royal, Brighton, and the Theatre Royal, Bath.[3]

St. John QuartermaineRowan Atkinson
Anita ManchipLouise Ford
Mark SacklingMatthew Cottle
Eddie LoomisMalcolm Sinclair
Derek MeadleWill Keen 
Henry WindscapeConleth Hill
Melanie GarthFelicity Montagu
Critical reception

The Guardian noted "a rueful social comedy that stands up well to revival and gives star billing to Rowan Atkinson, who reminds us in his first straight play in 25 years that he is a highly capable actor";[10] while The Daily Telegraph wrote "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."[11]  


  1. "Rowan Atkinson returns to West End". 8 June 2012 via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  2. Gray, Simon (21 February 2013). "Quartermaine's Terms". Faber & Faber via Google Books.
  3. "Quartermaine's Terms".
  4. "Quartermaine's Terms". iobdb.com.
  5. Rich, Frank (25 February 1983). "Theater: Simon Gray's 'Quartermaine's Terms'" via NYTimes.com.
  6. "Quartermaine's Terms (1987)". BFI.
  7. "Screen Two: Quartermaine's Terms". 29 March 1987. p. 41 via BBC Genome.
  8. "BBC Radio Drama, Radio 3 , 1991,DIVERSITY website". www.suttonelms.org.uk.
  9. "The Saturday Play. Quartermaine Terms". 17 June 2006. p. 121 via BBC Genome.
  10. Billington, Michael (30 January 2013). "Quartermaine's Terms – review" via www.theguardian.com.
  11. Auld, Tim (6 February 2013). "Quartermaine's Terms, at Wyndham's Theatre, review" via www.telegraph.co.uk.
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