Tom Kempinski’s Duet for One, stars Belinda Lang (Stephanie Abrahams) and Oliver Cotton (Dr feldmann) in a poignant, two – man play. It is about a brilliant concert violinist whose career is cut short in the cruelest way. She falls victim to multiple sclerosis, a paralyzing illness that robs all feeling in her hands at the height of her fame. It eventually leaves her completely disabled, stuck in a wheel chair, which in turn triggers an onset of suicidal thoughts and an alarming disillusionment with life.
Jacqueline du Pre’s husband suggests that she sees a psychiatrist to help cope with her debilitating condition. Cotton delivers a very measured and interesting performance, one that appears distant but at the same time very much engaged with his patient. He manages to break down Lang’s defences, peels away her image of self – resilience to the truth of a tumultuous, inner world. She is made to confront her difficult relationship with her father, a spiraling self – esteem as well as a marriage that seems to be failing. It is as though each scene strips away another layer, revealing a different person each time Lang changes her costume and behavior.
Lez Brotherston’s set is very impressive, the backdrop is lined with shelves filled with books and records in a orderly row. The elegant windows shine different shades of light depending on the time of day. Lang’s performance is particularly moving, the audience can really feel her pain and suffering. Cotton responds in a professional manner, never reveals too much until the very end when he loses his temper and shakes Lang to the core, changing her outlook forever: that despite all her misfortunes, life is still worth living.