The Potsdam Quartet at Jermyn Street Theatre
The Potsdam Quartet is perfectly suited for Jermyn Street Theatre: tucked away from the modern bustle of Piccadilly on a small side street, the venue is intimate and classic. The parameters were set for a precisely paced, wittily scripted play about love, art, politics and esprit de corps.
Set in the summer of 1945 and written by David Pinner, the play is based on the real lives of The Griller String Quartet – one of the first and most successful ensembles in the modern mode. We meet them at the peak of their career, in the Green Room, fighting with each other between performances to an assembled group of the most important men in the world. Despite the magnitude of the situation, there is a decidedly playful atmosphere in the room.
Michael Matus plays Aaron Green, a man as highly-strung as his bow and despised and admired by his peers in equal measure. His posture is particular – he struts rather than stalks, squeezes a stress ball and twitches his facial muscles. It’s a successful characterisation, and a success that is matched by his peers.
Philip Bird, who plays Ronnie Taylor, puts on a prudish, damaged voice. He engineers his limbs with graceful purpose and does a wonderful wounded face. Stefan Bednarczyk is brilliant as John Healey, Ronnie’s lover. As in a musical composition, his tone changes slowly as the play progresses: an indignant, sour voice slowly melts and rises up again. It is a beautiful dramatisation of proud and bitter heartbreak.
The fantastic script is full of tension and humour: when the quartet begins to fall apart, and each individual is in a state of crisis, trembling northerner Douglas (Daniel Crowder) finds some vodka. Before long, everyone is dancing around the room and Ronnie starts to do “‘his signets”’ – a move taken from Swan Lake involving a delicate flapping of crossed hands over his pelvis – to cringing from the others. Director Anthony Biggs superbly choreographs the four men stumbling out of characters in unison – a perfect quartet making one note together again.
The Potsdam Quartet is at Jermyn Street Theatre until 23rd November 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.