Skip to main content

Duet For One

King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars

When successful classical violinist Stephanie is struck down in her prime by multiple sclerosis, her entire creative lifeblood is ripped asunder as she is left wheelchair-bound. This leads to a set of reluctant sessions with stoic psychiatrist Dr Feldmann, whose gnomic line of inquiry is a knowing counterpoint to Stephanie's more mercurial tendencies. As her moods swing between defensiveness, rage and self-loathing, Stephanie is forced to face up to a new life, literally playing second fiddle to both her less talented students and her increasingly experimental composer husband.

Tom Kempinski's 1980 study of enforced artistic debilitation was a huge hit when it first appeared in 1980. This was possibly because of the play's reported inspiration, iconic cellist Jacqueline du Pre, who, like Stephanie, also had her musical career cut short by MS. This is a connection Kempinski now denies in a pithy programme note for this touring revival of Robin Lefevre's recent Birmingham Rep production. Thirty-seven years on, it doesn't really matter either way, as Belinda Lang and Oliver Cotton unleash all the discord at the heart of Stephanie's loss.

Cotton's Feldmann is both conductor and sounding board for Lang's Stephanie,who, no longer able to control and transcend herself through music, is left with all her emotional and psychological baggage exposed. Hemmed in by her wheelchair, her caustically funny riffs on the sheer awfulness of her situation also give her an accidental form of liberation, forgetting herself as she leaps to her feet without thinking.

If some of the unreconstructed terminology dates the play beyond the rows of CDs lined up on Feldmann's shelves, it remains a gentle exploration of how the crushing of the artistic pulse can unleash all the inner demons being held at bay when the rhythm of life forces you to change key.

The Herald, November 3rd 2017

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Futureproof 2017

Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow until February 4th 2018
Four stars

Now in its ninth year, Futureproof's showcase of recent graduate photographers from seven Scottish art schools and universities returns to its spiritual home at Street Level, with nineteen artists embracing photo essays, abstraction and constructed narratives. It is Karlyn Marshall's Willies, Beuys and Me that grabs you first. Tucked in a corner, this depiction of a woman impersonating iconic artist Joseph Beuys says much about gender stereotyping, and recalls Manfred Karge's play, Man to Man, in which a German woman took on her dead husband's identity.

The personal and the political converge throughout. Ben Soedera's Foreign Sands contrasts natural resources and the constructed world. Gareth and Gavin Bragdon's The Bragdon Brothers moves onto the carnivalesque streets of Edinburgh. Kieran Delaney's Moments also looks at the apparently ordinary. Matthew Buick goes further afield, as tourists…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Bdy_Prts

Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
Saturday December 2nd


It should probably come as no surprise that professional dancers are in the audience for the Edinburgh leg of this mini tour by spectral performance art/pop auteurs Bdy_Prts on the back of the release of their sublime debut album, The Invisible Hero. Beyond the music, the raison d’etre of Bdy_Prts’ dynamic duo of Jill O'Sullivan and Jenny Reeve, after all, is a flamboyantly costumed display of kinetic physical jerks and modernist shape-throwing to illustrate a set of fizzing machine-age chorales.

In this sense, the Bdy_Prts live experience is several works of art for the price of one that's a long way from the pair's formative work fronting Sparrow and the Workshop (O'Sullivan) and Strike the Colours (Reeve). Part living sculptures, part Bloomsbury Group super-heroines, part widescreen pop fabulists, O'Sullivan and Reeve paint their faces with ancient symbols and sport customised shoulder pads that look both seasonally …