To round off out 'Song & Dance' season at the West Street Loft (www.West street loft.co.uk for full weekly cinema listings) we are NOW showing QUARTET - a change to the previously advertised West Side Story... A competent directorial debut from Dustin Hoffman no less, Quartet is a gentle coming of (middle to late) age comedy, adapted by his play by Reginald Harwood. A quartet of the finest British actors of their generation (plus Billy Connolly) make mischief and some music together in this bitter sweet story of last hurrahs and sunset love . In a residential home for retired musicians preparations for the annual Verdi commemorative concert are thrown into complete disarray when a renown Diva (Maggie Smith of course) enters stage left as a new resident. Not only has she ruffled the professional feathers of most of the others in the home at some time or other, she also broken the heart of her ex husband, who also happens to be living there..There are many pleasures to be had in this truly ensemble piece, with all the leads usually managing to graciously reign in any desire to hog centre stage at the cost of the rest. Michael Gambon is suitably petty and demanding as the musical director whose best days are clearly behind him, and Pauline Collins more than holds her own as the sweetly addled Cissy, beloved and protected by all due to her early signs of dimensia. Shorn of his trademark Big Yin shaggy hair, Billy Connelly shockingly looks his age, but has benign fun wandering round as the resident lathario (in his mind at least). The big guns are of course Tom Courtney as the love lorn Reginald, and Smith as the fading star and his brittle ex Jean Horton, who have to find a way of healing their wounds in order to not derail the concert. Possibly a bit meandering in pace and stagey at times, Quartet is a satisfying first directorial effort for Hoffman none the less, and a joy to watch, due to the collective fire power of the talent on show. The underlying message is also made clear, that it is a grave error to confuse being old with being finished with all of life's passions and possibilities.
Director: Dustin Hoffman Starring: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtney, Michael Gambon, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Sheridan Smith,