Ustinov Studio, Bath Theatre Royal, and touring
David Bradley excels as an ageing actor whose career highlights are now little more than distant memories, whose family is lost to him, and whose long-suffering stage manager on the interminable tour of his one-man show has finally walked out, leaving him lost on stage without a prompt. Or as he puts it, "free to do the jazz version".
For forty minutes (and strictly forty minutes: his stage manager wouldn't allow any more on account of the life span of the candles which light the set), he is in free-fall, ad libbing with abandon and hoping that tonight he will shuffle off his mortal coil on stage, like Henry Irvine, Edmund Kean and Tommy Cooper.
Richard Crane's scripted ad libs take on their own life in Bradley's accomplished hands, all delivered with great aplomb, Bradley's technical skill balanced by immense warmth and impeccable comic timing. The genius of this play is that despite all this, the audience is robbed of a just a wee part of that easy security we expect of an evening in a theatre. When he finally launches into the Grand Inquisitor scene from Dostoyevsky's Crime & Punishment, he dries, calls "Line" to his absent stage manager, and leaves the audience suspended in the awful silence of the moment.
Under David Giles' assured direction, Bradley perfectly captures the loneliness of the touring, drink-dependent actor and the transient nature of ambition. Crane's well observed text is beautifully witty and, in the final analysis, an affecting and moving piece of theatre.
"The Quiz" tours to Yvonne Arnaud's Mill Studio, Guildford and Trafalgar Studios, London
Reviewer: Allison Vale