Margaret Helman
26th Jul 2016

In the play Betrayal, Harold Pinter resorts to his characteristically economical dialogue to explore the web of lies that often constitute social relationships.

In this three-hander - written towards the end of the 1970's and set in England - we meet Emma (Ursula Mills), who is married to Robert (Guy Edmonds) and Jerry (Matthew Zeremes), who is married, the ex-lover of seven years of Emma and the long-standing friend of Robert.  All of the characters have been actively involved in betraying each other, plus Jerry's wife, who we never meet.

The play's director Mark Kilmurry allows Pinter's economical use of dialogue to remove any emotional liability of these characters from that other definition of 'betrayal': to lie.

The play opens in spring 1977, in a pub, where Emma has arranged to meet her ex-lover Jerry to tell him that her marriage to Robert is over. Far from being emotionally affected by this event in her life, Emma appears to convey the news to Jerry through a display of narcissism - Emma's sense of entitlement, without any moral or social responsibility  - to fulfil her commitment to herself.

Jerry chooses to fan the flames of Emma's narcissism by committing another act of betrayal when he divulges the secret he has shared with Emma's husband Robert - that Robert has been having affairs with other women for years.  His tactic works and he continues to disturb Emma's sense of self by describing how frequently the two men have enjoyed spending time together. A regular arrangement to have lunch, never missed, plus the many games of squash they had shared and continue to share.

Pinter uses the revelation of these events to explore yet another layer of betrayal.  Emma bridles.  Her reaction is that she has been betrayed by exclusion from these intimate moments in the life of the close and long friendship between the two men.

Pinter explores all of the possible combinations of betrayal within the triangle of these three characters.  It is a timeless piece of writing.

The play's design team - Anna Gardiner, Christopher Page and Tim Hope displayed the skills of magicians by moving the play through nine scenes in ninety minutes within the confines of the intimate Ensemble stage.

Sydney knows well the expanse of the artistry of the three actors who have consistently delighted us with their brilliance.  On opening night they were still coming to terms with their roles.  By now - they will be flying - gouging every insinuation and mood in this classic piece of writing. 

Betrayal is on at Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli until Saturday August 20th. Production photos by Clare Hawley. 

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