Intelligent drama with both humour and pathos

Duet for One – by Tom Kempinski – Mega Brill Productions at Sir John Mills Theatre until Saturday

This is an intense duologue of a play set in one room – a doctor’s surgery – and which follows the progress of an MS sufferer through six sessions of counselling with an eminent German psychiatrist in order to try and come to terms with the consequences of the disease.

Based on the experiences of cellist Jacqueline du Pre the main protagonist Stephanie is an acclaimed violinist married to an equally famous composer but who now finds that her ability to make music has been taken away and with it her reasons for living. Dr Feldman is determined to help her find a new purpose to her life – but though she starts off in a positive frame of mind, as the disease begins to take hold so her anger at her helplessness and the seeming futility of trying to make sense of it all increases to almost uncontainable levels.

This is a play that calls for two strong actors and there is no doubt that Nigel Andrews and Jayne Lindill both deliver their roles to an extremely high standard. Jayne plays Stephanie with believable anger and pathos, Nigel’s doctor is a thorough logical German to the core. Both hold the stage and manage to squeeze out all the emotion possible from this hot house of a script. Yes there are flashes of humour too – but at two and half hours this is an intense and lengthy journey for both actors and audience.

And a small warning for those of an easily offended nature - at times the language and subject matter get a little coarse.

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The play is necessarily static due to Stephanie’s condition and the confines of the set, although Tony Flacks direction put as much movement into it as possible. If there is any criticism it is in unevenness of the writing - the second half has much more drama and therefore is much more watchable. But this is an intelligent play with much to say about what we value as human beings and what makes life worth living. A difficult journey but worth the effort.

Suzanne Hawkes

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