Duet For One explores the relationship between therapists and their patients, between musicians and music and between mental and physical health. Rather a lot to fit into two hours but in Kempinski’s capable hands we never feel like it’s moving too fast or covering too much ground.
We follow the story of Stephanie (Lang) , a hugely successful violinist who has recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and Dr Feldman (Cotton), a German psychiatrist (yes, really German) who attempts to help her find a new purpose in life. It doesn’t shy away from the horribly bleak reality of Stephanie’s situation, her music, her vocation, has been taken away from her by the disease that will eventually kill her. The writing is strong and assured though rather weighed to witticisms rather than naturalism. This doesn’t jar as much as it might as the characters are so cleverly drawn, clever, angry and very funny.
Lang is incredible in this productions, we watch her deteriorate from a proud, put together woman who is desperately trying to continue as normal, to a woman on the edge. She is at all times a vibrating centre of energy and emotion, the eye is constantly drawn to her. It must be said that although Cotton’s role mostly consists of letting her shine, providing a calm foil to her boundless energy, when Dr Feldman does let loose, it’s not something you are likely to forget.
The set, designed by Lez Brotherston, is quite simply gorgeous. It’s a beautiful room, filled with records and CDs and books and light, falling in through the slanted blinds. The hint of a garden outside is a particularly lovely touch, we are both in a self-contained world in this room and still connected to the one outside.
- By Tom Kempinski
- Director: Robin Lefevre
- Cast includes: Belinda Lang, Oliver Cotton
- Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham
- Until 7th October 2017
- Review by Flora Wilson Brown
- 27th September 2017