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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

New Era - Duet For One

20th to 29th March 2008.

Here is the NWN review.

Powerful two-hander

New Era Players: Duet for One, at New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Thursday March 20 to Saturday March 22, and Tuesday March 25 to Saturday March 29.

New Era Players always produce interesting and diverse work and their latest play was a challenging piece of theatre.

Tom Kempinski's Duet for One is loosely-based on the career of the cellist Jacqueline du Pré, who suffered from multiple sclerosis and died from the crippling disease at the age of 42.

Stephanie Abrahams' life has revolved around music since she was six. She has become a talented concert violinist and married to a gifted composer - a perfect match. But Stephanie has developed MS and her husband suggests that she needs help to deal with this horrific disease and sends her to a leading psychiatrist.

The play is presented as a series of six therapeutic sessions. When we first meet wheelchair-bound Stephanie, sensitively yet powerfully-played by Lisa Harrington, she is upbeat, coping well with her illness; even though she can no longer play the violin, she can still teach.

Tim Oldham was totally convincing as the detached professional, Dr Feldman, trying to help Stephanie come to terms with her problems and fleeting thoughts of suicide. He suggests a drug regime and so this duet begins.

As Stephanie's condition worsens, she lapses into depression, denial and eventually giving up her beloved music to become her husband's secretary Dr Feldman probes her past; it is uncomfortable for her as we learn about her strict, disapproving father and her over-sensitive mother.

As each scene is developed, Stephanie's emotions rollercoast between defiance, anger and resolution, as the ever-caring yet challenging Feldman probes deeper into her psyche, asking questions about her sex life and thoughts for the future, and tries to provide coping strategies for her.

She responds to this with a venomous attack and admits to having an affair with a 'totter'.

The final scene acts as a musical coda. Stephanie is more in control of her life, she appears better and announces that she wants to end her therapy sessions. But the audience realize that this is an illusion and her death is inevitable.

Both actors gave moving and compelling performances under the able direction of Stephen Bennett. Thought-provoking theatre.