REVIEW: Duet for One, Chichester Festival Theatre, until Saturday, November 18.

Belinda Lang as Stephanie Abrahams in DUET FOR ONE. Credit Robert Day
Belinda Lang as Stephanie Abrahams in DUET FOR ONE. Credit Robert Day

Tom Kempinski’s play makes a psychiatrist’s lounge accessible like never before, with an emotive performance that is injected with humour.

Depicting a personal journey between client and psychiatrist, Duet for One allows the audience an insight into the struggles that can turn a physical illness into a mental one.

If not for glancing around and reminding yourself that you’re sitting in the CFT, you would not be alone in mistaking a night at the theatre for eavesdropping on a very private moment in a psychiatrist’s lounge.

This is due to the complete conviction with which both Stephanie (Belinda Lang) and Dr Feldmann (Oliver Cotton) are played, combined with the superb set the two characters are immersed within. The sunlight pouring through the windows even gives the feeling of one day passing to the next.

The pregnant pauses, which are unavoidable given the sensitivity of the subject, do not leave you feeling awkward, instead allowing your compassion for the complex situation to develop.

Belinda Lang delivers humour and passion, portraying raw emotions in a way that is completely relatable, all the while managing to look completely at home in an electric wheelchair.

The play surrounds Stephanie’s depression at being unable to play her beloved violin, due to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Dr Feldmann helps to unravel her turmoil, delivered by Oliver Cotton in a character who complements his counterpart perfectly, offering a brilliant emotive outpour after countless psychiatrist head nods.

Although it was initially thought the play was based on the life of the great cellist, Jacqueline du Pre, Tom Kempinski disregards this ‘myth’ in the programme, assuring that the play is in fact a metaphor for his own life and the “struggle to keep these feelings from being actualised in the real world.”

The stigma surrounding mental health issues is slowly beginning to crumble, making this play even more poignant and relevant to the time we find ourselves in. Plays such as Duet for One, are another pivotal part in making mental health more accessible, and the play cannot be commended highly enough for doing just that.

By Lucy Bryant