Duet For One is a play I saw on a very cold November in 2017 in Edinburgh King’s Theatre. This play however, is still touring and there are a few days left with tickets available in Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. When I was informed of this play touring again, I couldn’t help but think about blogging about it (and thinking that my day job doesn’t give me time to see it again). The play tells, what I think, is such an important story that isn’t often portrayed and not in the way that it is and with so much wit and humanity.
The play is written by Tom Kempinski and performed by Belinda Lang and Jonathan Coy, who replaces Oliver Cotton. Since I have not seen it with Jonathan Coy, as much as I would love to have seen it again, I have to assume his acting on stage is as strong as it is on tv. It would be unfair of me to comment on his performance as it would be all assumptions then and not based on reality. So, what I am able to do is comment on Belinda Lang’s performance as Stephanie Abrahams and the body of work.
Stephanie Abrahams, 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 and through a series of highly charged encounters is led to examine her deepest emotions and finally to consider a future without music.
This really is an incredibly well written and thought out play, that has a lot of depth, poignancy, humour and humanity within it.
Stephanie had it all and then suddenly she was struck by Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and has to find a way to come to terms with it. She ends up in a psychiatrists office – that of Dr. Feldmann, where the play takes place. Stephanie is there because she is depressed, but more than that she is very angry. Angry because she doesn’t actually want anyone to be delving into her inner feelings and her life. The audience are taken through a thought provoking journey through this stage of her life.
It sounds like a grim play, after all it’s a grim disease that takes over a person’s life and changes it. This play however shows that there is still life to be grasped. The play shows great humanity and it shows that life isn’t always black and white, just because you have MS. There are a lot of laughs to be had. It is actually a very funny play with many poignant parts within it too.
The relationship between Stephanie and Dr. Feldmann is an intriguing one and I guess, unless you have been in therapy, it isn’t something audiences see being portrayed a lot of. When I saw it, and I wouldn’t think this would have changed much, it is an intense psychiatrist/client relationship, with a lot of angry energy, projected from Stephanie mostly. The intensity is built up by a few silences and also the remarks made as well as some of the movement. Dr. Feldman wants to help, tries to be patient, but even he is only human and has limits, but gradually the audience can see a turning point.
Belinda Lang’s performance as the protagonist – Stephanie Abrahams is absolutely brilliantly done. I never feel I can praise her high enough for her performance. What is so well portrayed is the MS. I couldn’t help but watch her movements carefully and to catch all the nuances, perhaps because I was interested, not just in the story-line but to see if someone could pull it off, not that I had any doubts whatsoever, but being a person in the know about MS, it was rather close to home, more so than anything else I have ever seen. So, what Belinda Lang brings is what looks like an effortless accuracy to her performance in her movements, and a dark wit as well as showing some pain, but without lingering on it before moving on. I use the term effortless because it looks it when she performs, but really it wouldn’t be at all. There is so much energy that she puts into the performance, and with it being a two-hander with most of the focus on her, you realise that what she is doing is pure skill at such a high level. It is a brave performance and one that is pulled off exceedingly well. It is one I know I won’t forget in a hurry.
Anyone seeing this play will not be disappointed. Yes, the subject matter is dark, but the material has some light within it. You will feel the emotion, but also the humour. So for anyone wondering whether to see this play or not, I would say, just go, take a chance on it and you may find yourself being pleasantly surprised.
*At the time of writing, there were still tickets left to be bought.
Here I will add that if you have MS or are a carer of someone with MS needing support/advice or need to see what groups there are in your area, the MS Society can help.