Tag: Harold Pinter

Tangled Web Theatre Presents BETRAYAL

Pinter’s work at its finest

By Ross Larkin

Harold Pinter is a somewhat acquired taste. The Nobel Prize-winning British playwright’s work was distinctive in its knack for simplicity and complexity all at once. Betrayal is possibly Pinter’s most interesting example of his preoccupation with the fragility and emotional inconsistency of the human condition and the relationships implicated by it.


Betrayal examines a chronologically reversed seven-year period in the affair-laden lives of married couple Emma and Robert and their close friend (and Emma’s lover), Jerry. Deception and infidelity are second nature and compulsive to the trio to the extent where the characters themselves lose track and create their own undoing.

Tangled Web Theatre’s production, directed by Bruce Cochrane, succeeds in capturing the mood of the piece: one of subtle tension, heavy pauses and intricate exchanges. Presented sparsely and deliberately, the atmosphere and direction would have made Pinter himself proud.

However, it’s the performers who really shine here. Supported by Michael Fenemore’s solid portrayal in the difficult role of Robert, Eleni Miller, who plays the unapologetic and somewhat sociopathic Emma, is suave yet guarded with a calculated and emotional repression that is natural, absorbing and devastating. Her understated performance is hypnotic and exactly the right measure of Pinteresque.

Tim Constantine as the deceptive Jerry is exceptional, capturing the charm and truthfulness of the character without ever succumbing to any obvious or intentional malice or trickery, but rather, allowing the text to allure and reveal while maintaining Jerry’s authenticity and self-perceived ingenuousness.

The pair are mesmerising from the get-go with a believable and palpable dynamic, rich in nuance and wonder, managing to woo the audience to care and empathise, despite their deceitful, self-absorbed ways.

Betrayal in all its uncomfortable loitering and tension may not be for every taste, but for those who like their theatre raw, brooding and close to the bone, it’s just the ticket. Playing now at the Northcote Town Hall until November 19th nightly at 8pm with 2pm weekend matinees. Booking at www.northcotetownhall.com.au or (03) 9481-9500.



You’ll be talking about it afterwards…

By Caitlin McGrane

Harold Pinter’s seminal and affecting play Betrayal transports the audience back to London in the 1970s, a time historically associated with sexual liberation and experimentation. Emma (Alison Bell) and Jerry (Nathan O’Keefe) have had an affair for seven years; they have a flat where they meet on afternoons to escape from their spouses and families. While Jerry’s wife is only ever alluded to, Emma’s husband Robert (Mark Saturno) is Jerry’s best friend and plays second fiddle to Emma and Jerry while they conduct their illicit affair.

Betrayal. Photo by Shane Reid

Emma’s marriage is clearly violent and unhappy, and while the script is tight and trimmed of all fat, it is a crying shame that Robert gets all the best lines. To Saturno’s credit he delivers the lines extremely well, but it is still jarring for a character so repugnant to be so well received. Bell shines as Emma, lending an often-needed lightness to a woman troubled and conflicted. Pinter is known for his silences, and Bell was fearless letting them hang over the audience. I also enjoyed O’Keefe as the spineless Jerry whose selfishness regarding Emma is matched only by Robert’s concern about her as his possession. I walked away from the theatre reminded once again of the astonishing selfish fragility of the male ego: I want to go for drinks with Emma and roll our eyes at men’s ridiculous desire to control and subjugate women; I’d like to watch a spin-off about Emma and what she did without Robert.

Director Geordie Brookman and lighting and set designer Geoff Cobham have constructed a mis en scene that evokes the spirit of the time, with scene changes taking place like a record; nearly all costume changes occur on stage, the actors seeming to choose their clothes from a rotating rack, which was a novel and interesting way of showing Emma and Jerry’s intimacy. The soundtrack, composed by Jason Sweeney, is harsh yet strangely effective at reflecting the mood of each scene.

In all, Betrayal was an excellent way to spend Saturday night, and I would highly recommend seeing it then dissecting it over wine with friends. Betrayal is showing at MTC’s Southbank Theatre until 3 October 2015. Tickets available here: http://www.mtc.com.au/plays-and-tickets/mainstage-2015/betrayal/

Image by Shane Reid