THIS comedy featuring four ageing opera singers in a home for retired musicians is clever, compassionate and simply very funny by any yardstick.

But it will resonate particularly with audience members of a certain age, as it charts the increasingly patchy performance of memory and muscle as the mind goes walkabout and the body no longer can.

Wilfred (Paul Nicholas), who adopts the role of elderly roué, Reginald (Jeff Rawles) pernickety and prim, and increasingly batty Cecily (Wendi Peters) are more or less happily settled into the abode which fate and circumstance has imposed upon them when the fourth member of the Quartet, a former formidable diva, arrives.

To Reggie’s horror it is his acid tongued ex-wife Jean (Sue Holderness) who abandoned him 30 or so years earlier and the pain is still raw.

But Jean’s arrival reunites a famous combination whose rendering of a quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto has just been re-released on CD. It is also in good time for the home’s annual concert for the composer Guiseppe Verdi’s birthday. Do they have the will to overcome their personal difficulties to recreate musical magic?

It is an absorbing, funny and revealing process, with deliciously observed performances by each member of the acting ensemble. There is tenderness, vulgarity, casual verbal cruelty, and superb wit as old wounds are reopened and long buried secrets unearthed.

Even if you’ve seen the film of Ronald Harwood's story, the stage version sheds a sharper perspective on the theme. It runs until April 21.

Jo Bayne