Lies, deceit and wine may be the essential ingredients for a night of treachery, but Ensemble Theatre’s production of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, falls a little short of highlighting the lingering itch of guilt or the hollow bleakness that might reside in corrosive relationships.
Betrayal begins with the stilted reunion of past lovers Emma (Ursula Mills) and Jerry (Matthew Zeremes) at a pub two years after the conclusion of a seven year affair. The play chronologically turns back the years, guiding us through the couple’s illicit relationship and Emma’s revelation of her infidelity to her husband and Jerry’s best friend Robert (Guy Edmonds).
Betrayal shows its age. The scandalous tale of adultery first staged in 1978 does not pack the same shock in 2016. As a product of its time, Betrayal presents a tedious display of inconsequential middle-class woe. Although propped up and brought to life by a solid cast, the characters are not particularly likeable – you find yourself trying to connect to their plights but may ultimately fail to care enough to be moved.
Pinter delivers precision and forward momentum through an economic use of language. Paced with well placed pauses, this production, directed by Mark Kilmurry, flows smoothly and captures moments of gentle humour but does not capitalise on below the surface tension and conflict.
The sound design is confusing and slightly jarring. Used as a segue between scenes, music cuts off erratically into silence and ambient sounds weave in midway through scenes without obvious purpose before abruptly retreating in a similar sense of aimlessness.
The slick minimalistic set is paired with a monochrome black and grey colour scheme that emanates an appealing anachronistic modern feel. However, the play itself is stuck in decades passed and although this is hardly a bad thing, you can’t help but feel a bit dissatisfied at its conclusion. The production is enjoyable enough, but for a play about yearning, desire and deception, the absence of threat may leave you walking away a little indifferent and safely untouched. (SH)
Until Aug 20, varied performance times. Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall St, Kirribilli. $66-$73. Tickets & info: ensemble.com.au
BY SHON HO