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Duet for One
6th November 2017 - 11th November 2017
Belinda Lang and Oliver Cotton
in Duet for One
By Tom Kempinski
Originally produced at the Almeida and following an acclaimed run in London’s West End, Tom Kempinski’s multi award winning play Duet for One tours the UK.
In this powerful and deeply moving play Stephanie Abrahams (Belinda Lang), a brilliant concert violinist who seemingly has it all, is forced to re-evaluate her life when struck down by an unforeseen tragedy. Faced with a truth too difficult to comprehend she consults psychiatrist Dr Feldmann (Oliver Cotton) and through a series of highly charged encounters is led to examine her deepest emotions and finally to consider a future without music.
Two of British theatre’s finest actors rise to the challenge of portraying this duel between two razor sharp minds and the wry humour that underlines their relationship. Tom Kempinski’s dazzling play emerges as a gripping, poignantly funny and ultimately life- enhancing tribute to the human spirit.
Oliver Cotton has played leading roles at the Royal National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and in London’s West End. His many TV appearances include: The Borgias; Poirot: Waking The Dead; Midsomer Murders and Sensitive Skin.
Belinda Lang is best known for playing Bill in 2 Point 4 Children. Other television credits include The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, Second Thoughts, Dear John, The Bretts and To Serve Them All My Days. Belinda has also appeared in many West End productions including Dead Funny, Hay Fever, Life x3, What The Butler Saw, Things We do for Love, Ring Round The Moon and national tours including Moira Buffini’s Gabriel, Alan Bennett’s Single Spies and Oklahoma!.
“NO ONE SERIOUSLY INTERESTED IN THE THEATRE CAN AFFORD NOT TO SEE THIS PLAY” The Financial Times
★★★★ “TOM KEMPINSKI’S PLAY IS A MASTERPIECE. UNMISSABLE” The Times
“A GRIPPING PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER. COMPELLING, BRILLIANT, SUBLIME” Daily Telegraph
★★★★ “THIS IS A DECEPTIVELY SIMPLE PLAY; BEAUTIFULLY ACTED AND SKILFULLY DIRECTED. IT IS COMPELLING, CLEVER AND DEEPLY MOVING.” Broadway World
“TOM KEMPINSKI’S PLAY IS A CRACKLING GAME OF VERBAL CAT AND MOUSE. A VERY MOVING DUET” Daily Mail
“A JOY TO WATCH” Financial Times
“A WONDERFULLY SENSITIVE PLAY, POSITIVE AND OPTIMISTIC.” The Financial Times
★★★★ “CRISP AND UNCLUTTERED REMOUNT OF TOM KEMPINSKI’S COMPELLING CEREBRAL CHARACTER STUDY” The Stage
Ticket price includes a £1 contribution to our heritage fund.
Tom Kempinski's Duet For One is a play ostensibly about a violinist with early stages of multiple sclerosis visiting a shrink for help. But this is not, absolutely not, categorically not, a play about the cellist Jacqueline Du Pre who suffered from MS. Fake News, writes Kempinski in the programme notes - a myth which has endured for 40 years. The play is, in fact, a metaphor for his own life and his "damaged personality, depression, rage and anxiety".
So, after reading the programme, you do not expect a bundle of laughs. And yet, it spite of its rather bleak content, there are some genuinely humorous moments.
Belinda Lang plays Stephanie, the violinist in question who suffers not only from a disease for which there is not cure but also from the fact that she is unable to play the instrument she holds so dear, ultimately not even having the pleasure of being able to teach others. In the psychiatrist's chair is Oliver Cotton as Dr Feldmann who, with his German accent, quietly and respectfully talks with Stephanie over several sessions organised by her husband and done under a certain amount of duress, providing suggestions and medication to ease her suffering or at least getting to the core of her issues. Her responses are often not pleasant, often bordering on abusive- something he is well used to getting from his often suicidal clients - but the good doctor takes it all in his stride until during one session, a crack shows and he blasts her with his true feelings about her behaviour.
To be honest, take away the MS element and Stephanie is a character for whom it is hard to feel much sympathy. But the doctor's role is not really to judge but to guide and to let the patient discover herself as if in a confessional. Lang glides effortlessly around the stage in her electric chair (though equally spends much of the time walking around the set) whilst Cotton remains largely in his psychiatrist's chair giving his words of wisdom. And, by definition, given the static set and just two characters, this is a wordy play with little action, relying on the interaction between the two. This, indeed, works very well indeed and you can well imagine that this is the type of session which many professions must endure.
So is there a conclusion to the problems which Stephanie endures in her home life with, as we discover, her wayward husband? Or is it just a continuous journey that the two are undertaking…?
I thought this play a tour-de-force! Especially the role played by Belinda Lang.
Exceptional! Sitting in the stalls was fantastic as her face illustrated her emotions.
I had originally booked this event thinking that it would be interesting to see Gemma Redgrave
but I think Belinda Lang's performance could not have been bettered. Fantastic Belinda!