Duet For One – November 2012

8/10

By Tom Kempinski

Directed by Robin Herford

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Thursday 8th November 2012

What a shame this had such a small audience tonight. I know it’s not the most cheerful of subjects, but it’s a good play and with Hadyn Gwynne and William Gaunt as the cast I would have expected a better turnout. Still, they gave us excellent performances and we enjoyed this production even more than the Almeida’s 2009 revival.

The set was as required for the piece: music stacked on shelves on the left – CD format – with the player, bookcase beside that, windows centre back with a plant on a table in front of them, desk and chair to the right with more bookcases behind, stacked with books. There was a picture on the wall, a rug in the middle of the floor, an armchair which the doctor moved before his patient arrived and that was about it.

This play definitely isn’t about the set, though, it’s about the performances. Hadyn Gwynne was very believable as the virtuoso violinist whose MS has left her without a reason for living and who isn’t yet ready to deal with the emotional issues this is bringing up for her. Despite her sarcasm and attempts to plead ‘normality’ we could see the vulnerability and despair lurking under the surface, and her gradual discovery of her inner workings was judged to perfection.

Her performance was well matched by William Gaunt as the doctor. He didn’t go in for the tremendously long pauses and distinctly odd behaviour we’ve seen before; his behaviour was measured and kind, and completely believable for a doctor who had seen a lot of human suffering and done his best to help each patient come to terms with it in their own way. His strong outburst when he saw the danger his patient was in was very moving, and certainly affected her as well. Her final realisation of her situation, not yet ‘cured’ but at least willing to do the work, was a fitting end to the play.

We applauded as loudly as we could to make up for the small numbers; I do hope they get the full houses they deserve on the rest of the tour.

© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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