Review: Duet For One - Heartfelt tale of loss is spiky fun

Belinda Lang and Oliver Cotton in Duet for One
Belinda Lang and Oliver Cotton in Duet for One
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DON’T be put off by the mournful strains of the lone violin that fill the auditorium ahead of Duet For One at The King’s this week, what follows is actually an uplifting and occasionally uproariously funny series of encounters between a psychiatrist and his reluctant patient.

* * * *

KING’S THEATRE, Leven Street

Addressing loss in all its many forms, Tom Kempinski’s sharp, witty two-hander is deftly brought to life by the ever reliable Belinda Lang and Oliver Cotton in this new touring production.

Virtuoso musician Stephanie Abrahams, a concert violinist, has been persuaded by her husband to visit Dr Feldmann.

Now reliant on a wheelchair to get around, Stephanie is in the early stages of Multiple Sclerosis and in her head, dark forces are massing.

However, while her illness may be robbing Stephanie of movement, her career, and everything she holds dear, her stoicism and rapier wit remain unquashed.

Stephanie’s sarcasm may be the last weapon left in a dwindling armoury, but as she battles to come to terms with what the future holds, she is determined to keep going, no matter the cost.

Although the press release suggests this play is ‘based on the life of world renowned musician Jacqueline Du Pré’, in the programme notes, the playwright dismisses this as a myth, fake news no less, insisting instead that it is a metaphor for his own life.

Either way, a rich vein of truth runs through the piece, which Lang expertly mines.

Utterly convincing too, Oliver Cotton’s Dr Feldmann, interrupts only when needed and is a study of stillness.

Each moment of selective deafness, each minute movement or micro-expression conveys more than any page of dialogue ever could.

With Cotton’s words kept to a minimum it is left to Lang to drive the action forward and as she glides around Lez Brotherston’s cosy set in her electric wheelchair, she is commanding.

Bringing long-repressed anger, frustration and inconsolable loss to the surface Lang’s acerbic creation nonetheless remains sympathetic.

The many silences, played beautifully by both, are directed with skill by Robin Lefevre, as is the verbal sparring, which, as Feldmann probes and prods Stephanie’s subconscious, provides unexpected laughter, never more so than when Lang allows her middle-class mask to slip revealing the terrified, confused, little girl beneath.

It’s heartfelt stuff.

Run ends Saturday 4 November