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A chat with Duet for One's William Gaunt

Duet For One is a undoubtedly a modern classic. It first opened at Edinburgh Fringe, then transferred to the West End for a long run, moved on to Broadway and later turned into a movie starring Julie Andrews and Max von Sydow. It is now showing at Churchill Theatre Bromley for the first time.

We spoke with actor William Gaunt about the play.

William Gaunt’s many stage acting credits include Humble Boy, Albert Speer, The Cherry Orchard, Look Back in Anger, The Mysteries and An Inspector Calls, all at the National Theatre.

In the West End, he has starred in When Did You Last See Your Trousers? at the Garrick, Having a Ball at the Comedy, Run for Your Wife and Travels with My Aunt at the Whitehall Theatre, as well as Murder By Misadventure and The Miracle Worker. He plays the role of Alfred in Duet For One.

Tell us about Duet For One and why the role of Alfred appealed to you?

Duet For One is a powerful, interesting and moving play about the relationship between an older man and a younger woman, similar to Educating Rita. Like Educating Rita it is a two hander and focuses on the development and rapport of the two characters. I first saw the play in the 60s when Roger Smith directed it. I remember thinking to myself that I want to play the part of Alfred when I’m old, so this has worked out well! Also, I wanted to work with Haydn (Gwynne, who plays violinist Stephanie Abrahams).

How has the fact that the play is based on a real person affected your approach to the role?

The role of Alfred is actually fabricated. The story is based around a true story; the story of skilled cellist Jacqueline du Pré, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis during the height of her career. In reality, she had therapy with many doctors.

Duet For One is an extremely powerful play, how do you prepare for such a taxing role?

Rule one, read it! It’s mentally taxing, I can’t do physically. When you perform in a two hander, it really depends on the relationship between the two actors. Establishing a good rapport is key.

Your acting career is vast and varied. What has been a highlight?

I had a fantastic 18 months being Gloucester to Ian McKellen’s King Lear. It began in the New London Theatre on Drury Lane, toured the country and ended on television.

This is the first time Duet For One will be performed at Churchill Theatre Bromley. Have you performed here before, if so, in what?

I’ve been to Bromley many times. The most memorable was in the old theatre, in Cliff Richard’s dramatic debut Five Finger Exercise. That was 34 years ago. I’ve also been in a production of Jamaica Inn, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I always enjoyed performing in Bromley.

Why should the audiences of Bromley see Duet For One?

Duet For One is a moving piece with a lot of humour. Audiences can expect a very enjoyable evening and to be on the edge of their seats. It’s a very special piece.

 Catch William in Duet For One from Monday 1 – Saturday 6 November. Evening show times are at 7.45pm, Thursday and Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets are £12 – £27. A Ferrari’s Meal Deal is available at £40.