Reviewed by Regina Su
So much tension, so much residual resentment. Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” drips with long held grudges and things left unsaid, as the cast from The Ensemble hold us tight in their vice like grip.
The production of this play is so perfectly minimalist and which laid bare raw emotion that was simply stomach churning.
The plot is simple enough, recounting the tale of past affairs and cheating spouses. However, in true Pinter fashion, the story telling is tangled and complex and a confusion of betrayal and lies. The Ensemble did really well to make this play accessible and emotionally testing, paring it back to the pure basics of human resentment with feverish passion. The love triangle had the potential to be unbearable, and Pinter’s dialogue certainly made for an uncomfortable slow drip of tension. However, I think this production approached the play with delicate fingers. It really emphasised the fragility of the situation while adding touches of lightness and soft humour, that otherwise may have been lost in ambiguous quips.
The cast were explosive. We were first introduced to the characters at a two year reunion of ex lovers, Emma and Jerry, which was poisoned with slippery hostility. As the play progressed forward, time travels backwards, and we visit each key moment over the preceding years to unravel the tight knot we encountered at the start. The Ensemble helped us orientate ourselves throughout the whole play (no interval), with a time line in the whole program and visuals on the set. We learn who knew what, and that their seemingly innocent words were in fact double edged, and full of hurt.
The cast of three created a whole world beyond the stage. The Ensemble’s minimal use of sound and their set design helped us immersive in the plot unhindered, while providing for us a whole series of lives and interactions beyond the stage. Guy Edmonds played the bitter husband, Robert, and Ursula Mills his cheating wife Emma. Edmonds’ performance was spine tingling, he held such venom in his voice, knowing that his wife had an affair and probed her with stealth. Jerry’s (Matthew Zeremes) blissful ignorance was painful to watch, as we knew from the onset that he was unaware of who knew what about the affair.
The cast ducked and dived through and tangle of lies which created paralysing dramatic irony. Kilmurry’s choice to cast off - stage friends Zeremes and Edmonds to play these bitter characters added an essential layer of authenticity to story. What could have been forced yet fiery hatred for each other seemed softened by an underlying friendship, which was genuine and understandable considering the characters feigned best friends throughout the seven year affair.
I was totally gripped by this production of “Betrayal” and I recommend to all as a night of good quality theatre.
Photos by Ensemble Theatre