Duet For One ★★★★★ Orange Tree Theatre | Feb 11 - Mar 18, 2023

A famous concert violinist has contracted MS, and has lost her world of music. She and her husband agree that seeing a professional might help her to cope with this life-changing event. Tom Kempinski has written an intelligent play about intelligent people, and it deals not only with how one copes with chronic illness, but how we reconcile ourselves to the knowledge that death is an impending reality for everyone. The dialogue between Stephanie Abrahams (Tara Fitzgerald) and Dr Feldmann (Maureen Beattie) is compelling as it ranges from defense to offence, from denial to insight. The portrayals developed by both actors ring touchingly true and reverberate a deep authenticity. Fitzgerald's presentation of the proud, self-possessed artist who has dealt with her vulnerabilities and found her living space in the performance of music is finely etched and never strays into the melodramatic. Maureen Beattie is equally compelling as the doctor whose professionalism and studied calm are the tools of her performance which allow her to deal with her patient's loss. The battle of wits between the two skilled practitioners of different arts becomes mesmerising, and Director Richard Beecham has managed to make a conversation between the two women who are seated through most of the show totally enthralling. The slowly rotating stage works perfectly not only to suggest the passage of time, but also to offer different perspectives on the battle of wits between the two principals as they struggle to deal with the reality that must be faced. Sound Designer and Composer, Oliver Vibrans, has created haunting musical interludes which beautifully capture the refuge that Stephanie found in music and the music truly becomes a third character in the play. Duet For One is a thought-provoking piece that is beautifully treated in this first-rate production.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Helen Murray.

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