Review: ‘Will leave you questioning your own mortality’ ★★★ Duet for One, Richmond Theatre

Society often discusses the meaning of the phrase ‘quality of life’ and more deeply the meaning of life itself, but for most, these are merely superficial hypotheses rather than issues meaningfully thought out.

Tom Kempinski’s two hander Duet for One – which is running at Richmond Theatre this week – seeks to investigate these theorems by giving us insight into what it’s like to have an important part of our lives taken away.

The play is set in a psychiatrist’s study (with all of the obligatory accoutrements, including a lavish chaise lounge, thanks to a majestic design by Lez Brotherston) and depicts a series of appointments with a former virtuoso violinist. Stephanie (Belinda Lang) has been a musician since a young age but after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, her glittering career has come to an abrupt end. The exchanges are disquieting and yet at the same time humorous in what feels like a competent and truthful journey of acceptance.

Lang is excellent as the spoiled performer, who initially tries to hide her grief for the loss of her vocation, while Oliver Cotton as Dr Feldmann spends more time reacting rather than acting until the final instalment, but when he launches into a dialogue about the meaning of life, comes into his own and displays some real sensitivity.

It takes a bit of getting going, with Lang’s character pretty unlikable for the most part but it’s worth the wait; act two is a really interesting character study which will leave you questioning your own mortality.

Duet for One runs at Richmond Theatre until 28 October.

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Jemma Redgrave and Oliver Cotton to star in Duet For One

Jemma Redgrave and Oliver Cotton will star in Tom Kempinski’s award-winning play Duet For One for a strictly limited UK tour.

In this powerful, deeply moving, and at times poignantly funny play, 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, resulting in a duel between two razor-sharp minds. Tom Kempinski’s dazzling play emerges as an ultimately life-enhancing tribute to the human spirit.

Based on the life of world renowned musician Jacqueline Du Pré, Duet For One premiered at the Bush Theatre in 1980 with Frances De La Tour and David de Keyser and had great success in subsequent West End and Broadway runs, including a major revival in 2009 starring Juliet Stephenson and Henry Goodman.  The film adaptation of Duet For One, released in 1986, saw Julie Andrews nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actress.

Jemma Redgrave is best known for her role as Eve Granger in Cold Blood and as Bernie Wolfe in BBC 1’s Holby City.  Her extensive television credits include the recurring role of Kate in Doctor Who (BBC 1), Clementine Churchill in Churchill: 100 Days That Saved Britain (ITV 1), Frankie(BBC 1) and Unforgiven (ITV1).  Jemma’s theatre credits include a West End revival of Chekov’s The Three Sisters, in which she appeared with her aunts, Vanessa Redgrave and Lynn Redgrave, and Chatsky at the Almeida Theatre. Her film appearances include Love and FriendshipHowards End and Dream Demon.

Actor and writer Oliver Cotton is best known for his role as Cesare Borgia in the BBC series The Borgias.  Other recent television credits include Penny DreadfulMusketeers and Ripper Street.  His film credits include The Dark Knight Rises and Shanghai Knights.  For stage, in addition to working with the National Theatre, Royal Court and Royal Shakespeare Company, and as well as appearing in Trevor Nunn’s The War of the Roses (Rose Theatre, Kingston), Cotton has appeared in many West End productions, including The Philadelphia Story (Old Vic), Passion Play (Duke of York’s Theatre) and the self-penned Daytona (Theatre Royal Haymarket).  Further writing for stage includes The Enoch Show (Royal Court), Scrabble (National Theatre) and his latest play, Dessert,which will have its world première this month, running from 12 July to 5 August at Southwark Playhouse, directed by Trevor Nunn.

Duet For One will be directed by multi award-winning director Robin Lefevre and designed by Olivier and Tony award-winner Lez Brotherston, with lighting by Ian Scott and sound by John Leonard. The national tour is produced by Lee Dean and Daniel Schumann, in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

Duet For One will be at Richmond Theatre from 23 – 28 October