Rowan Atkinson is 'superb' in Quartermaine's Terms revival

Atkinson brings surprising pathos to this magnificently funny and touching production

LAST UPDATED AT 08:08 ON Mon 4 Feb 2013

What you need to know
A new production of Simon Gray's 1981 play Quartermaine's Terms starring Rowan Atkinson has opened at Wyndham's Theatre in the West End.

The story focuses on the lives of seven teachers working at an English-language school for foreigners in Cambridge in the early 1960s. Atkinson plays the title role of St John Quartermaine, an ineffectual teacher and lonely bachelor, with few friends but his colleagues in the staff room.

The production is directed by Richard Eyre, and also stars Game of Thrones actor Conleth Hill. Runs until 13 April.

What the critics like
This is the West End at its very best, says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph, "a great play, beautifully directed and acted by an outstanding cast". Atkinson is "superb" in a production that captures the play's potent mixture of humour and desperation for "a magnificently funny and touching evening".

The role of St John Quartermaine was made for Atkinson, says Alice Jones in The Independent. No one does awkward like Atkinson who offers "some glorious moments" of physical comedy. More unexpected "is the tenderness and quiet heart he brings to the part".

Atkinson is the box office draw and he conveys the essential loneliness of his character, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. But "Eyre's immaculate production never allows him to overbalance the play".

What they don't like
The characters are beautifully defined and acted, but there is something too rigged and "pick and mix" about them to quite ring true, says Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times. And Eyre's production can't overcome the problem that often "the comedy feels laboured and dated". · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.