Duet for One : Lighthouse, Poole
There is a thoughtful elegance to this powerful two-hander which explores the relationship between a leading psychotherapist and his patient, a once brilliant concert violinist coming to terms with the ravages of multiple sclerosis.
Haydn Gwynne is the wheelchair-bound Stephanie Abrahams battling with the knowledge that not only is her musical career over but that her body is in the grip of degenerative disease that will all too soon destroy her.
William Gaunt is Dr Alfred Feldman - quiet, diffident, but deeply caring - who must try to demonstrate that there is still purpose to her life. Both are magnificent in this intriguingly updated version of Tom Kempinski 30-year-old play which was originally based on the tragic case of the inspirational cellist Jacqueline du Pre whose career and life was cut short by MS.
The action takes place over several appointments in Feldman’s consulting room. We witness his desperate patient sinking to a near suicidal low as he forces her to confront the realities of her life, the psychological ghosts of her past and the very real potential that she still possesses. Feldman is torn by the fact that he is a huge fan of her music but must maintain a sense of professional detachment.
The set is perfect. Wood panelled and grandiose but also bright, airy and with subtle dashes of modernity. It provides space for Gwynne’s mercurial and confused Abrahams to glide around the increasingly concerned doctor in her wheelchair, keeping her distance when wary or sad, getting up close when bouyant or angry. As Dr Feldman tells her, this is a journey and he is her travelling companion. In this production, designed by Michael Holt and directed by Robert Herford, the audience experience every twist, bump and unexpected crossroads they encounter along the way. Superb!
*Duet for One plays Lighthouse, Poole until Saturday November 3.