Orange Tree Theatre, London – until 18 March 2023
Guest reviewer: Bobbi Fenton
Possibly the worst thing that can happen to somebody is to build their whole life around one thing that links everything together only to lose this key element that connects them to everyone and everything around them. This is exactly what happens to Stephanie Abrahams (Tara Fitzgerald). Following a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, Stephanie loses her ability to play the violin. Her musical ability, which she has developed since childhood, is the one thing that connects her to life itself. Losing this incredible talent leads her into a deep state of depression in which she contemplates suicide, and ends up going to see a therapist.
During her sessions with Dr Feldmann (Maureen Beattie) we see an often hilarious display of denial and projection by Stephanie, as she makes jokes in an attempt to convince the doctor that she is fine, when in fact she is not coping as well as she tries to make out. This deflection with humour eventually gets to Dr Feldmann, and we see her shouting at Stephanie in a display of intense anger at the patient’s nonchalant manner towards the severity of her depression, recounting previous patients who were not helped by her treatment.
The ending of this play is left on a cliff-hanger which leaves the audience wanting more. We are left to ponder whether the future sessions with Dr Feldmann are effective, and whether or not Stephanie keeps her word and continues to work at getting better mentally.
It can be quite tricky to use in-the-round staging effectively, as it increases the risk of actors having their backs to the audience for extended lengths of time. Duet For One, however, uses a stage that rotates slowly throughout the play, which enables the audience to experience different angles and viewpoints during each of Stephanie’s sessions with Dr Feldmann. I thought that this worked brilliantly.
This play is phenomenal, and filled with such raw emotion and moments of intense vulnerability for both characters. Not to mention the absolutely beautiful music performed on the violin during each transition, by Gabriela Opacka-Boccadoro, performing as a past version of Stephanie, who played concerts during her career. Everybody should experience this wonderful performance.
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