I feel I must confess that the last time I saw Juliet Stevenson on the stage, in The Seagull at the National Theatre, I left at the interval. This plays on my mind a lot, as I love her acting, but my feelings for Chekhov were stronger that evening and so after a swift gin and tonic, we made a swift exit. I am pleased to report however, that I managed to stay until the end of this play. A two-hander with Henry Goodman, Duet For One takes place as a series of therapy sessions between a concert violinist who is struggling to come to terms with a degenerative illness and her psychiatrist who is guiding her through her highly charged emotions.
Stevenson’s work here is extraordinary running the whole emotional gamut from sarcastic and sullen to bitter and furious and finally to the anguish of self-realisation. From her wheelchair, she captivates entirely, showing the futile frustrations of not being able to live her life as she needs to. A lesser actor might have let her steal the show and at times to start off with it feels like it might happen here, but the wonder of Goodman’s performance of the therapist is that you really feel the growth of their relationship through him: at first a little indulgent, and then ever-increasingly involved as the depth of her despair becomes apparent. For the most part it is barely possible to take your eyes from the pair of them, lest you miss some subtle nuance.
With some beautiful violin music inserted between the scenes, and the highly detailed set providing the ideal setting, the Almeida has once again triumphed in accomplishing another must-see production. Highly recommended.