Review: Duet for One

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Award-winning actress Haydn Gwynne has been cast to play Margret Thatcher opposite Helen Mirren’s the Queen in a new play – good luck with getting tickets for that!

But you can see the actress at the top of her game on your doorstep in the heart-wrenching play by Tom Kempinski.

Gwynne gives a tour de force as Stephanie Abrahams, a brilliant violinist whose career is cut short by multiple sclerosis.

She gets the audience by the throat - not by hysteronics - but in a beautifully measured performance which encompasses every human emotion from stoicism to cynicism, anger to despair, resignation to defiance.

When Gwynne sobs the audience weeps with her, when she spits out bile they choke on its viscousness – no heart-string is left unpulled, no response unprovoked in a performance which is absolutely mesmerising.

William Gaunt is the psychiatrist she turns to for help in coming to terms with the dehabilitating condition which has robbed her of her passion - to play music.

He is the perfect foil – the calm at the centre of the storm - but when it is his turn to let loose his anger - a provocation too far - boy does he deliver.

As someone sitting behind me said - this is not a barrel of laughs. It was never intended to be. There are laughs - but it is a complex study of genius and what happens when that talent is denied its expression.

Yes, it is about multiple sclerosis but not a ‘disease of the week’ analysis in the style of Casualty. It is more about the torture of the spirit and mind as the body refuses to respond as it should.

It is a highly-charged evening which packs an emotional punch thanks to two actors who know their craft.

Duet for One is at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until Saturday November 17, daily at 7.30pm. Matinee in Saturday at 2.30pm