Thursday, June 18, 2009

Duet for One review (Vaudeville Theatre) - an intense dialogue that will sweep you off your feet

I chanced upon a colleague along the corridor the other day and knowing that she has quite a good taste for plays, I took the opportunity to ask her for a recommendation.

"Well, you could certainly try Duet for One. It is pretty decent. Anyway, it played in Almeida, you can't go wrong with that."

Almeida Theatre together with Donmar Theatre has got this reputation of hosting fine plays with intimate settings performed to a high standard. I didn't need much persuasion and headed straight to the TKTS ticket booth at Leicester Square the very next day.

duet+for+one+Vaudeville+TheatreAfter a stint at Almeida Theatre earlier in the year, Duet for One has since moved to Vaudeville Theatre along The Strand, opposite the new defunct Savoy. I was pleasantly surprised to find tickets for the evening show still available at TKTS on early Saturday afternoon. I found out that the play was performed to a full theatre later that evening.

The first thing that struck me the moment I stepped into the hall is the elaborate prop. Though the set for Duet for One is not a Les Miserables, which featured a revolving stage. It is far from the Woman in Black that thrives on a simple setup.

The Duet for One opens into a study room, a psychiatrist work office to be precise. Shelves of books and stacks of CDs adorn the cosy space with the patient's comfy sofa grabbing the centre-stage. On one end lies the doctor's work desk and the 'sunlight' pours into the other end through thoughtfully placed windows. It is like a scene plucked out from a novel.

The plot is about the dynamics between a patient and her psychiatrist and is beautifully played out by the cast of two. Stephanie Abrahams (played by Juliet Stevenson) plays an outstanding violinist whose career was cut short by multiple sclerosis while Dr Feldmann (played by Henry Goodman) is the ever so detached doctor who is bent on delivering Stephanie out of the shadows.

The nearly 2.5 hrs of dialogue between the two characters is peppered with emotional outbursts that give the audience a glimpse into the relationship between Stephanie and her husband, mother and father, and her constant struggle to gain acceptance. Dr Feldmann, on the other hand, more than once, tore down her attempts to put up a brave front with a simple "Are you happy?" in a light German accent.

Though the play can be tedious at times as Stephanie goes on and on about how she is coping well and visits Dr Feldmann only at the bequest of her husband, it is nevertheless a very intense piece. The powerful performance by Stevenson and Goodman manage to engage the audience throughout the entire duration. The trembling of Stephanie's hand or the idiosyncrasies of Dr Feldmann. It is as if you are in the same room as them.

Duet for One is definitely for fans of movies Before Sunset (2004) and After Sundown (2006). It's a in the process play that leave you wondering after you step out of the theatre.

Duet for One
Vaudeville Theatre
404 Strand, London, WC2R 0NH

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7 comments:

::karinuslai:: said...

dang I had been wondering whether to catch this while I was in the UK just a over a week back. in the end I chose arcadia though, and while that was definitely a worthy choice (highly recommend it - you really should check it out) I was definitely very interested in this one too. didn't make it in the end though, since I decided that doing a total of 7 plays in London over a span of about 2 weeks was probably over-doing it =p

C K said...

@karinuslai,
Thanks for the heads up. Will be catching Acadia after your recommendation. The synopsis seems interesting. Reminds me a bit of Three Days of Rain. Other than Acadia, what else did you manage to catch while you were in London?

::karinuslai:: said...

oh, far too many. i did the globe's romeo and juliet (the only one i sort of regretted doing but globe experience was necessary so i gritted teeth and did it); stewart and mckellen's waiting for godot; judi dench's madame de sade; arcadia (of course); jude law's hamlet and the cherry orchard at the old vic. oh, and i recommend either one of the old vic productions as well - winter's tale, personally, more than cherry orchard. but that's up to you to pick based on what you're interested in: chekhov or shakespeare.

glad to know you're catching arcadia! you might think it too "clever" at some points but do stick with it - the whole play's marvelous and the story very touching! and if you need a heads up or something check out my blog - i've got pretty much all my reviews of the uk plays up except for cherry orchard...

::karinuslai:: said...

by the way i also caught a filming of QI! :) again: review is on blog and if you want to know how to get tickets for the future just drop me a note and i'll give you the lowdown on getting QI tickets!

C K said...

@karinuslai,
Will check out your site for the reviews. I caught Madame de Sade two weeks back. To be honest, I thought that the plot is a tad too thin for Judi Dench's acting prowess. I left somewhat disappointed.

We actually got our tickets (and Hamlet as well) sometime last year. Was thinking that the tickets might ran out. Just manage to get the tickets for Atkinson's Oliver as well. Heard great reviews about his performance.

::karinuslai:: said...

good luck with the oliver! tickets - rowan's only got a few performances left before omid djalili takes over in mid-july! and yes, i caught hamlet too - review of that is already up on my blog. i was think i was actually more interested in madame de sade in the end, actually - jude law may have been taxing his acting prowess but his limit wasn't that high! tennant was the far better dane :)

C K said...

@karin,
Managed to get tickets for Oliver for this weekend. Hmm, might be because people are heading towards Wimbledon during these two weeks. :)