Theatre Review: Duet for One @ the Vaudeville Theatre

By Zoe Craig Last edited 110 months ago
Theatre Review: Duet for One @ the Vaudeville Theatre
Henry Goodman plays Dr Feldmann in Duet for One at the Vaudeville Theatre. Photo by Bridget Jones
Henry Goodman plays Dr Feldmann in Duet for One at the Vaudeville Theatre. Photo by Bridget Jones

When we told people we were off to see Duet for One at the Vaudeville Theatre, a play about the relationship between a former concert violinist now diagnosed with MS and her psychiatrist, the news was generally met with the same response: "Well, that sounds like a barrel of laughs."

In return, we say not everyone's looking for laughs, in a barrel or otherwise, everytime they head to the theatre. Sometimes a good story, well told, and beautifully acted makes a theatre trip worthwhile. And we're happy to report that this is a show which ticks all those boxes.

For two near-stationary actors to fill a stage with nothing more than words, shrugs and feelings, and keep our Twittering-YouTube-shortened attention spans gripped for the entire evening is nothing short of remarkable.

And this is a remarkable piece of theatre.

Not only that, but Duet for One also delivers laughs. Juliet Stevenson's character Stephanie is all chippy and defensive in her early sessions; as the psychiatrist Dr Feldman, Henry Goodman captures the infuriating mannerisms of a near-silent, logical, almost cold doctor to comic effect perfectly.

As the six sessions between doctor and patient wear on, the layers of Stephanie's defences are steadily stripped away. And here, Stevenson shows her extraordinary range. As the doctor probes at her present, her past, and into her subconscious, the audience goes on the same journey as Stephanie, down to the brink of hopelessness.

Her description of a life lived in music would stir the most tone deaf heart, and make anyone who gave up piano lessons aged 13 feel heavy with something like regret.

Goodman plays Dr Feldmann as a kind of Christ-like figure: impossible to scrutinise, frustratingly positive in the face of such enormous adversity, and utterly unwilling to give up on Stevenson's character, Stephanie, no matter how often she gives up on him, or herself. His simple belief in hope and life itself is certainly the feel-good factor in the cruel, painful world unfolding on stage.

Duet for One is a transfer from the smaller Almeida Theatre in North London. Back in row Q, under the circle at the Vaudeville Theatre, we couldn't help wishing we were closer to the action.

Indeed, we found ourselves rather wanting to get on stage, momentarily, alongside Stevenson and Goodman, in order to better enjoy what must surely be some electrifying glances passing between these two masters.

Forget what "people" might say; book your tickets now for some great raw theatre, and fight for a seat near the front.

Duet for One at the Vaudeville Theatre is booking until 1 August. Box Office: 0870 040 0084

Last Updated 13 May 2009