Imagine writing a play with only two characters – a psychiatrist and a patient. It’s not exactly full of potential for action, is it?
Tom Kempinski pulled it off with Duet for One, a two-person debate about the life prospects of a young musician suffering from multiple sclerosis which was so intense you forgot you were merely eavesdropping on a conversation.
Paul Wheeler’s Deceptions is a different kind of play, but also a less successful one. It’s a kind of psychological thriller, or at least mystery, about a young man claiming to be suffering from impotence who visits a woman psychiatrist.
He is flippant, nervy and easily irritated. He claims his father works for MI6. But it soon becomes apparent that everything he says has to be treated with caution: is he a compulsive liar or is there something more devious and sinister going on?
Paul Wheeler is a prolific television writer whose many credits include Bergerac, Minder and The Darling Buds of May, but this, his first stage play, seemed to me to have a fundamental weakness: I didn’t believe a word of it.
Michelle Collins and Rupert Hill perform it with conviction and in the latter’s case almost a little too much zip. But somehow the characters don’t seem adequately anchored in the real world to draw us into their mind games. It’s perhaps not much helped by the first act’s rather bleak presentation of the psychiatrist’s consulting room.
These characters seem too much like cyphers being moved around in a game of spot-the-plot. To be fair, it would be very difficult to predict how things are going to turn out, but the problem is it’s even harder to care.
* Running time: Two hours. Until Saturday.