Duet for One/Malvern Theatres

ANYONE who has ever experienced a crisis in their lives will almost certainly identify with this masterpiece of a play.

And so will all those of us who have perhaps counselled a friend, relative or spouse going through a bad time.

Writer Tom Kempinski has remarkable powers of observation and they come to the fore in this warts-and-all examination of a professional musician whose life has gone into free-fall.

Stephanie Abrahams (Belinda Lang) has been struck down by a crippling illness which means she can no longer play the violin. It is now up to psychiatrist Dr Feldmann (Oliver Cotton) to not only drag her back from the brink of the abyss, but also to convince her that all may not be lost.

The client’s rage at her condition is as unrelenting as the doctor’s patience appears infinite. He endures the tantrums knowing that if he can ride the tidal wave of anger, the storm may eventually subside, and the healing process can start.

Belinda Lang delivers an epic performance, ranting and raving in her wheelchair, exposing her innermost thoughts with an alarming candour while the long-suffering doctor must sit and listen.

Kempinski’s examination of what happens when a titanic ego is dashed on an iceberg of bad luck and circumstance is an inspiration to the many people who will suffer a mental breakdown at some stage in their lives.

For far from being a clinical examination of someone cracking up, this play shines like a beacon in the darkness, and must surely bring hope to all those who have once thought that life is no longer worth living.

With blistering showings from both actors, Duet for One is not just two hours of highly entertaining theatre, it’s also very much an education… it should not be missed. It runs until Saturday (November 11).

John Phillpott