Duet for One at the Almeida Theatre London

Duet for One

By Tom Kempinski
Ticket prices: £6 - £29.5
Thu 22 Jan 2009 - Sat 14 Mar 2009

The sold out show Duet for One is now embarking on a short tour before opening in London's West End.  Juliet Stevenson and Henry Goodman reprise their roles.

Duet for One Tour

16 - 21 Mar 2009 - Theatre Royal Bath

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23 - 28 Mar 2009 - Theatre Royal Windsor

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30 Mar - 4 Apr 2009 - Richmond Theatre

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Duet for One West End

Opens Thurs 7 May 2009

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Stephanie Abrahams, a brilliant concert violinist, who seemingly has it all, is forced to re-evaluate her life when struck down by an unforeseen tragedy.

Faced with a truth too difficult to comprehend she consults psychiatrist Dr Feldmann and through a series of highly charged encounters is led to
examine her deepest emotions and finally to consider a future without music.

Kempinski’s play, premiered at the Bush Theatre in 1980 and enjoyed successful runs in the West End and on Broadway. It was subsequently made into a film with Julie Andrews and Alan Bates. Two of Britain’s finest actors; Juliet Stevenson and Henry Goodman, perform this gripping and deeply moving psychological drama in its first major revival.

Juliet Stevenson’s stage work includes Rosalind in As You Like It (RSC) and most recently Arkadina in The Seagull (National Theatre). On film she received numerous awards for Truly Madly Deeply and a BAFTA nomination for The Politician’s Wife.

Henry Goodman was last at the Almeida in The Hypochondriac. Other stage work includes his award-winning performance in The Merchant of
(National Theatre) and recently in the leading role in Fiddler on the Roof in the West End. Matthew Lloyd, previously Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange, Manchester, has directed over twenty new plays at Hampstead, the Almeida and the Royal Court.

Evening performances 7.30pm

Saturday matinees 3pm from 31 Jan

Wed 25 Feb 2.30pm

Wed 11 Mar 2.30pm 

Running time: 2 hours 30 mins, including one interval.

Duet for One Tour

16 - 21 Mar 2009 - Theatre Royal Bath

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23 - 28 Mar 2009 - Theatre Royal Windsor

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30 Mar - 4 Apr 2009 - Richmond Theatre

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Click here to download the production programme as a PDF document


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The Cast
Henry Goodman
Henry Goodman

Henry Goodman was last seen at the Almeida as Argan in Lindsay Posner’s production of The Hypochondriac. His other recent theatre credits include Teyve in Fiddler on the Roof for Sheffield Theatres and the Savoy Theatre, Performances for Wilton’s Music Hall, The Exonerated for Riverside Studios, The Birthday Party at the Duchess and the title role in Richard III for the Royal Shakespeare Company. For the National Theatre he played Shylock in Trevor Nunn’s production of The Merchant of Venice, Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, Roy Cohn in Angels in America and Philip Gellburg in Broken Glass. For the Royal Shakespeare Company his work includes Volpone, The Comedy of Errors and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? In the West End his roles include Billy Flynn in Chicago, Freud in Hysteria and Eddie in Feelgood and on Broadway his work includes The Producers and Art. His television and film work includes Damned United, Churchill, Colour Me Kubrick, Notting Hill, Mary Reilly, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Foyle’s War and Cold Lazarus.
Juliet Stevenson
Juliet Stevenson
Multi award-winning actor Juliet Stevenson will make her Almeida debut as Stephanie Abrahams. Stevenson was last on stage at the National Theatre as Arkadina in The Seagull. Previously her theatre credits include Alice Trilogy and The Country for the Royal Court, We Happy Few at the Gielgud, Private Lives for the National Theatre and Beckett Shorts for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Stevenson played Paulina in Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden for which she won the Laurence Olivier Best Actress Award and Anna in the UK premiere of Langford Wilson’s Burn This opposite John Malkovich. On film she played opposite Alan Rickman, directed by Anthony Minghella, in Truly, Madly, Deeply for which she won the Evening Standard Film Award for Best Actress. Her other film credits include Breaking and Entering, Being Julia, Mona LisaSmile, Bend it Like Beckham and Drowning by Numbers. On television her credits include The Politician’s Wife, Hear the Silence, Stanley, and most recently A Place of Execution.

Matthew Lloyd - Director

Matthew Lloyd is Artistic Director of The Actors Centre.  Previously he was an Artistic Director at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre where his productions included An Experiment with an Air-Pump and Waiting for Godot. Lloyd was Associate Director at Hampstead Theatre where his work included The Fastest Clock in the Universe, Slavs! and the award-wining The Lucky Ones. He has directed over twenty premieres of new plays for the Bush Theatre, as well as productions for the Theatre Upstairs and the Glasgow Citizens Theatre.
Lez Brotherston - Design

Lez Brotherston has previously designed for Almeida productions Dying For It, The Lightning Play and Brighton Rock as well as the upcoming production of In a Dark Dark House. Other recent theatre work includes Dickens Unplugged and In Celebration (West End), Much Ado About Nothing for the RSC, The Dark and Little Foxes for the Donmar Warehouse, Playing with Fire at the National Theatre, and Cabaret and The Crucible for Sheffield Crucible. His design for dance includes Into The Woods and A Soldier’s Tale for Royal Opera House, Seven Deadly Sins for the Royal Ballet, Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands, The Car Man, Cinderella and Swan Lake; Carmen, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Giselle for Northern Ballet, and nIght LiFe and Just Scratchin’ The Surface for Scottish Ballet. His design for opera includes L’elisir d’amore for Glyndebourne, Hansel and Gretel for Opera Zuid/Opera Northern Ireland, and Le Roi Malgre Lui for Opera North.
Jason Taylor - Lighting

Jason Taylor’s extensive credits for lighting design include the West End productions of Rainman, Absurd Person Singular, The Letter and Some Girl(s), High Society, Abigail’s Party, And Then There Were None and Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, Broadway productions of Pygmalion and Journey’s End, and national tours including Flashdance, Crown Matrimonial, Blackbird and Lady In The Van. His other lighting design includes BCC (National Theatre), God of Hell (Donmar Warehouse), Year of the Rat, Madness of George 3rdand Little Shop of Horrors (West Yorkshire Playhouse), National Anthems (Old Vic), Us and Them and The Dead Eye Boy (Hampstead Theatre), Iolanthe, The Mikado and Yeoman of the Guard (Savoy Theatre),twenty seasons at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, and productions at all the major regional theatre venues.

John Leonard - Sound and Music  

John Leonard has previously worked on sound design at the Almeida Theatre for Waste, The Homecoming, Big White Fog, Dying For It, Hedda Gabler, Macbeth, Brighton Rock, Whistling Psyche, Five Gold Rings, The Mercy Seat, and I.D.  He has also worked extensively on productions for the National Theatre including the recent Much Ado About Nothing and The Enchantment, productions for the RSC including Antony and Cleopatra, The Prisoner's Dilemma, and Romeo and Juliet, and extensive work for the Druid Theatre Galway/Dublin, Soho Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, Birmingham Rep, Oxford Playhouse and Liverpool Playhouse. His work in the West End and on Broadway includes In Celebration, Kean, Glengarry Glen Ross and Translations.

Articles and Reviews



***** 5 stars 'Performances of overwhelming emotional power and conviction… the performance of a lifetime… a triumph.'

Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard, 30 Jan 2009.

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**** 4 stars 'Duet for One bowled me over…Matthew Lloyd's rich and nuanced production…is a noble and deeply moving piece of theatre. Stevenson…is superb…Henry Goodman creates a highly sympathetic, wise and comic character… a masterclass in fine acting.'

Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph, 30 Jan 2009

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**** 4 stars 'In Matthew Lloyd’s fine revival, there is a perfect balance between the superb performances of Juliet Stevenson and Henry Goodman. These are two actors at the top of their game… a riveting evening.'

Michael Billington, Guardian, 30 Jan 2009

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**** 4 stars 'Two fine performances...leave you feeling there's light in a dark world'

Benedict Nightingale, Times, 30 Jan 2009

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**** 4 stars 'A riveting script and charismatic actors... very moving'

Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail, 30 Jan 2009

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**** 4 stars 'Juliet Stevenson and Henry Goodman bring an intense, riveting humanity that held me spellbound'

Mark Shenton, Sunday Express, 1 Feb 2009


***** 5 stars 'The Almeida again unearthing a theatrical gem... life-affirming'

Ben Wardle, London Paper, 30 Jan 2009


'Matthew Lloyd's beautifully attentive production is lit up by Juliet Stevenson and Henry Goodman... intricate performances'

Susannah Clapp, Observer, 31 Jan 2009 


**** 4 stars 'A poignant revival… a joy to watch with fine timing and subtle shifts in mood and focus. Stevenson [gives a] superb performance… Goodman is just so good, delightfully droll… A beautifully nuanced and moving duet.'
Sarah Hemming, Financial Times, 2 Feb 2009

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'A beautifully judged revival… played with wit and deftness by both actors'
Michael Coveney, Independent, 2 Feb 2009

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**** 4 stars, Critics Choice: 'Stevenson inhabits [her role] with supreme dramatic tact… She gives a masterclass in feeling and restraint'
Caroline McGinn, Time Out, 4 Feb 2009


**** 4 stars 'A wise play... beautifully pitched... a wonderful evening'

Claire Allfree, Metro, 2 Feb 2009


Audience Response
"A fantastic production with star performances by Henry Goodman and Juliet Stevenson. We wanted to give the stars and production a standing ovation" 
"The performance of Juliet Stephenson's career (so far, at least), which is an extremely high accolade. Henry Goodman was matched perfectly with her: he's a wonderful actor. The balance of the play was beautifully struck by Matthew Lloyd's production.  Many, many thanks to you all for the best theatrical experience I've enjoyed in a long time.” 
Duet for One was absolutely wonderful in every way." 

"A wonderful production with superb performances."  
"Juliet Stephenson was outstanding in this and Henry Goodman was also excellent. An extremely stimulating evening.”
Duet for One - just excellent!” 
"An enthralling  and deeply perceptive play. The two actors were totally convincing. It was the most brilliant acting I have seen for years”

"A wonderful production with superb acting.”  
”I was riveted by the performances of the actors... There were so many layers in the play - even several days later I find myself thinking about it.”
"A truly amazing evening...a great piece of theatre"
“Outstanding performance and staged in the perfect setting - making you the audience feel voyeuristic to the drama that unfolded on stage."
“Excellent production. In particular, an amazing performance from Juliet Stevenson, especially in the range of emotions that she displayed. Very good set. It is always a joy to see a play at the Almeida because the theatre is small and you get a real sense of intimacy. The play is also a good one in that it raises a number of issues about the use of psychiatry.” 
"Very moving and stimulating...thoroughly enjoyed the evening"
"A powerful performance - the whole thing - set, acting, direction - at an incredibly accessible price"
Rehearsal Blog

Assistant Director on Duet for One, Poppy Burton - Morgan, gives us a week by week update about progress in the rehersal room.


Week Four

Well this has been a hard week for everyone - putting scenes together and beginning to run but still not completely secure on lines. Tricky.
It was now time to start pinning some things down so that Henry and Juliet have some physical anchors in each scene. This was particularly useful for Juliet because it meant pinning down the physical symptoms and manifestations of her MS as realised through-out the play - which hopefully creates an accurate and very realistic suggestion of the illness, without pulling focus from the relationship and the life and death struggle between Stephanie and Dr Feldmann.

Saturday morning was the first run-through of the whole play, which is always a nerve-wracking experience. It was nice to havea few friendly faces in rehearsals, but even playing to familiar faces proved a daunting experience for Juliet and Henry. However, it got the adrenaline pumping and perhaps because of this the run itself was astonishing - the pace was up - the scenes were for the most part fluid and fluent but above all it was incredibly moving. I always cry at the end of Session Three where Stephanie breaks down - which is pretty amazing considering how many times I've now seen it - but I also found myself in floods of tears throughout Session Five - which is testament to Henry's great skill and humanity as an actor in making Dr Feldmann such a compassionate figure even when he loses it and launches a tirade of abuse against Stephanie.

So a week of extreme emotions - hard work and late nights - but it looks like all the hard work has finally paid off - bring on tech week


Week Three

This week has been particularly hectic. Back to in rehearsals after the Christmas break, we started working through the play from the beginning. Working through each scene, or session, starting with a quick line run and then getting up on stage.

It soon became apparent that Tom Kempinski's genius for writing incredibly naturalistic, brilliantly real speech, was bit of a pain for the actors to learn! It is particularly difficult for Juliet Stevenson, the actor playing Stephanie, as the character’s speech gets especially fragmented, broken down, circuitous and repetitive as the MS takes hold and she has an emotional breakdown. This makes the speech less logical and therefore it is much harder to learn as it is not a rational argument which logically precedes from premise to conclusion.

Henry Goodman, the actor playing Dr Feldmann faces a different linguistic challenge, he has to learn very accurately the slightly 'wrong' Europeanised English of a native German speaker. As both Henry and Juliet are such eloquent and articulate people themselves they often unconsciously correct the intentional grammatical mistakes in the text. So the actors are practicing their lines very hard to ensure absolute accuracy.

This week also saw the beginning of some explorations into costume. Henry had a fitting with Lez our costume designer, which was very productive. Feldmann stays on stage almost all the time and therefore can't have many costume changes, but more importantly artistically speaking doesn't go through such obvious emotional, physical and mental changes as Stephanie and consequently neither does his outward appearance.

Stephanie on the other hand starts off incredibly smart, stylish and well-put together and because of the emotional journey the character takes, goes through a complete physical transformation and the costume must reflect this.

The week finished with some more sessions with Warwick, the physiotherapist. On Saturday morning he brought in an incredible machine which essentially gives you an electric shock to therapeutically induce movement in muscles. For our purposes however it gave Juliet the opportunity to feel what it is like to have involuntary muscle spasms and cramps, which are common symptoms of MS. This meant that she could form muscle memories based on the experience and recreate the appearance of the physical symptoms within the play. This was possibly the biggest break-through of the week as she felt like she finally had a grasp on the physical reality of the condition and hence how to portray it on stage. It also means she can be incredibly specific in deciding whether a spasm in her hand starts from the little finger or the thumb, whether it immediately becomes a claw, the duration, and also where she would alleviate the spasm - in actuality the muscles that control our fingers are actually in our fore-arm (which is where the electrodes that induced the shock were placed) and so it is there rather than the hand itself that one would massage to alleviate the pain/spasm.

We also started the education project for Duet For One. This is a devised piece of theatre based on the same themes, with twenty, fifteen year olds students from a local school. I am directing the project and it has got off to a flying start and is incredibly exciting for all involved. The drama teacher at the school told us after the first session the other drama class, not involved in the project, had been complaining and were generally very jealous that the other pupils get to perform on the Almeida stage!

So a hugely productive week - and now only one more to go - eek!


Week Two

Monday started working through the remaining scenes of the play. We had been worried about not getting through all the scenes before the end of the week, but we had got through everything so took the opportunity on Friday afternoon to read-through the entire play again. This gave a great sense both of how far we'd come in developing the characters but also of the shape and feel of the play as a whole, which is easy to forget when you're working in depth and in great detail scene by scene. We've still got two weeks of rehearsals after the Christmas break but already the production has such an impact that even sitting round a table re-reading it we were all in tears by the end of the first act!

We scheduled a meeting for Tuesday morning for the designer and costume supervisor to come in and talk to the actors, Henry and Juliet about their costumes. We also talked generally about the set and the revisions we'd made to the design during rehearsals. We talked a bit about props - my stepfather, who is a Psychiatrist, is kindly donating a full bookcase worth of Psychiatric Journals to furnish Feldmann's office so we started thinking about the logistics of getting them to the theatre.

On Tuesday morning Juliet went to meet with an MS nurse to try and find out a bit more about the symptoms and physical experience of having MS.She got lots of factual and anecdotal information from her.

One of the most moving anecdotes Juliet was told was that MS patients frequently use McDonalds restaurants, because one of the major symptoms of MS is incontinence and McDonalds is one of the few places where you can use the toilets freely. This story led to the discussion of Juliet's character Stephanie having a moment of incontinence at some point during the show - probably at a point of high stress - and how to achieve this technically.

Later in the week, on Thursday, we had a fantastic Physiotherapist called Warwick Thompson come in to rehearsals for an hour, not just to talk about the symptoms of the disease but also how to create and suggest them as an actor. Warwick works a lot with actors, he worked with Henry when he played Richard III for the RSC, a role which demands a variety of physical deformities. Warwick knew how to describe the symptoms and then suggest ways that Juliet could convey them on stage without risking her own physical and vocal health by having to repeat things over a long run in a demanding role.


Week One

What a lovely place the Almeida Theatre is. First thing on Monday morning the cast and crew were welcomed by Artistic Director Michael Attenborough and the rest of the Almeida Theatre team, plus a load of Danish pastries and fruit! Fruit has now become a regular feature in our rehearsal room – and it makes a great change from the usual staple of biscuits and donuts!

After the initial introductions, everyone crowded round the model box to have a look at Lez Brotherston's set design. This is useful for everyone involved in the show, as it helps everyone to visualise the play.

We then got stuck into the read-through – this is where the actors read the play aloud for the first time. The play is a duologue and focuses on the relationship between a world-famous concert violinist, played by Juliet Stevenson and her psychiatrist played by Henry Goodman. The initial reading was astonishing, this is clearly going to be a great show!

The play is incredibly complex it has a lot of layers - so a lot of the rehearsal this week was spent working around a table on the text – discussing the character and the story.

The show’s director, Matthew Lloyd is wonderfully open and collaborative, and the actors Henry and Juliet are both highly intelligent and articulate. They have undertaken a great deal of research into the characters and the issues they face in the play.

I have also undertaken lots of research. This week I have been contacting patients with MS and asking if they would be prepared to meet with Juliet, so she can find out what it really means to live with the disease. I think this will really inform her portrayal of the character and make her portrayal realistic.

I have also been looking up you-tube links for the many classical music references within the play and chatting to my step-dad, who luckily is a consultant psychiatrist about the tools and techniques of psychiatry.

The play was written in 1981 but we're updating it to the present, which means a fair bit of re-writing so that references to contemporary culture and medical treatments are accurate and up to date. Working in these changes are really important because the play is so real - such a slice of life - that the text needs to be accurate to create a believable reality on stage.

In the middle of the week, the actors began to stand up and put the words on stage. We began to explore the text in situ - on a mock-up of the set within the rehearsal room.

By the end of the week we'd got through the first two of six scenes. So hopefully we'll get through the remaining four scenes by the end of next week before we break for two weeks over Christmas. But already after only a few days real work Juliet and Henry are giving performances that I would spend four weeks trying to tease out of an actor - I think we're in exceptional and very safe hands.

Multiple Sclerosis

The character Stephanie Abrahams in Duet for One is affected by the condition Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis is a puzzle that has perplexed medical science since it was first described by the French neurologist Charcot in 1868. The disease affects the central nervous system and can, to varying degrees, interfere with the transmission of nerve impulses throughout the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
Since identification, MS has been the subject of intense, world-wide research but still its cause and cure remain elusive.
A simple explanation is conveyed by the term itself. Sclerosis is a Greek word meaning "hardened tissue or scars" and multiple means many. Recurring episodes of MS can cause many scars to appear in the central nervous system as a result of the breakdown of the myelin, the insulating material that covers the nerve fibres. This can result in impairment of motor, sensory and cognitive functions to a greater or lesser extent.
But multiple describes other aspects of what is often a frustratingly unpredictable disease. Episodes can occur at varying time intervals affecting different areas of the central nervous system. There is no one symptom that indicates the presence of MS. No single test can establish an accurate diagnosis. It can be benign - in rare cases apparently disappearing altogether after one or two episodes. Or it can progress steadily over many years, bringing about a slow deterioration in an individual's capabilities.
Source: MS: The Mystery Disease, MS Australia, 2005. Reproduced with permission. www.msaustralia.org.au


For more information on MS visit the MS Society at www.mssociety.org.uk

Arts Council England ASP Group