Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

A moving duet to remember

Duet for One

Sutton Arts Theatre


THIS is not what you would call a fun night at the theatre. The laughs, and there are some, are like commas in a long, long sentence, there to give you a breather and, for a moment, lighten the mood.

Alison Daly and Ken Mackey (above) are superb as the virtuoso violinist Stephanie Abrahams and Dr Alfred Feldman.

Abrahams' career has been ended by multiple sclerosis, shades of Jacqueline Du Pré, and she is persuaded by her conductor husband Daniel to visit psychiatrist Dr Feldman to . . . and that is the question? Why is she visiting him?

Through his probing we discover that she hates him for not feeling her pain and then hates him again when he can understand her.

Her mood swings wildly from enormous enthusiasm teaching promising violinists and helping her husband as his secretary to the depths of despair and thoughts of suicide.

We can guess her husband, who is a brilliant composer, the best of his generation, or writes postmodern rubbish depending upon her mood, is having an affair with his secretary.

And Stephanie is having an affair with a totter, a scrap metal merchant – affair being a polite term for what is purely a carnal exercise.

It is all part of Stephanie's attempts to shock, to rail against the world and Daly brings us the whole range of emotions from the anger, the why me fury of people struck with terrible diseases, to despair and great sadness.

Perhaps most telling is when she tries to explain what no longer being able to play the violin means to her, telling the good doctor that the violin was not a way of life for her. “The violin is where I live”.

In that one line we understand the anger, the frustration, the resentment and the deep depths of what Dr Feldmen calls the “dark forces” that are within her and which, he says, they have to fight together.

Mackey, as Feldman, is understated. A quiet listener, probing with no emotion or reaction in the early sessions but slowly, prodded by Abrahams, we start to learn ,ore about the doctor, how he feels the pain of his patients and especially those who commit suicide – and the pain of those they leave behind.


We learn of his feelings for his fellow man, his despair at the pain of others and his willingness to fight with them when the dark forces want them to end it all.

And through it all Mackey's accent never falters. He manages the inflexion and slightly different emphasis on words and syllables to go with his slight German accent. This is no “Ve haf vays of making you tock” stuff, but a measured and whole believable performance

Two handers are difficult for amateur companies. The only advantage is the cast can rehearse in each other's sitting rooms over coffee and Hobnobs. It needs a lot of work on the part of the two actors who both have long monologues and different emotions to display in their two and a half hours on stage.

Davina Barnes direction is economical. The words and emotions are the thing and she makes them the focus, keeping the pace moving along through the six sessions of Tom Kempinski's award winning play from 1980.

It might not be fun but it is fascinating stuff, at times funny, at times disturbing and at times moving with a duet of performances to remember.

Roger Clarke 

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