Theatre Review: Betrayal

Theatre Review: Betrayal

‘Betrayal’ by Harold Pinter, is an intricate, subtle and ultimately powerful exploration of the darker side of human nature, friendship and marriage.



Alison Bell in 'Betrayal' Photo by Shane Reid
Alison Bell in ‘Betrayal’
Photo by Shane Reid

Presented by State Theatre Company SA
Reviewed 28 July 2015

The official opening night of State Theatre Company’s Betrayal at Dunstan Playhouse was sold out. No mean feat for a Tuesday night in the middle of winter, and testimony to what audiences have come to expect, and receive, from this incredibly talented company.

Betrayal by Harold Pinter, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, is an intricate, subtle and ultimately powerful exploration of the darker side of human nature, friendship and marriage. Emma is married to Robert, but she’s been having an affair with his best friend, Jerry, for seven years. The play begins in 1977, two years after the affair has ended, and goes backwards in time exploring major milestones of the affair and its effects. Betrayal is an apt title for it is not only the marriages of Emma and Robert, and Jerry and his (offstage) wife, Judith, that are betrayed by the adulterers, but perhaps more cruelly, the long-standing friendship of Robert and Jerry. Jerry and Robert went to Cambridge together, they work in publishing together, Jerry was Robert’s best man at his wedding. At a critical point in the play depicting the beginning of it all, Robert poignantly says Jerry is his ‘best man’. Later, he admits to his wife that he always liked Jerry better than her and perhaps he should have been the one to have an affair with him.

Plot wise this is a simple tale, but it is in the time-managed construction of the retelling that the impact is felt. Little lies become big betrayals, small behaviours take on greater significance, and simple repetition of touch-stone moments such as Jerry remembering throwing Emma and Robert’s daughter, Charlotte, in the air demonstrate guilt most beautifully. The dialogue is simple, even mundane in parts, but the loaded undercurrent of meaning is pure brilliance. This is a story about wanting it all and not being willing to sacrifice for it; of complications of the human heart, what it is to be a family, a friend, a lover, and the pain to all involved when deception poisons trust and loyalties are betrayed.

It is one thing to have an award-winning script, however without the acting talent to back it up, the production is nothing. The three actors who held this play together were Alison Bell (Helpmann Award winner for Hedda Gabler, Doubt) as Emma, Nathan O’Keefe (Hedda Gabler, The Importance of Being Earnest), as Jerry, and Mark Saturno as Robert. Each were amazing actors who brought their individual characters to life demonstrating incredible talent. Likewise, the set was simple yet effective. Set mainly in the 1970s, the mostly bare stage was set with furniture and lighting appropriate to the era; a backdrop of seventies coats, dresses, and flared pants hanging from a clothing rail evoking historical atmosphere.

This production is a bit of a ‘creeper’ in so far as it takes a little while to hook the audience, but once it does, it doesn’t let up. You’ll leave with a head full of questions about relationships and humanity and the sensation of ‘wow’. Due to the mature themes tackled, this will probably appeal more to a slightly older audience, but young adults shouldn’t be discouraged from attending either. A highly recommended production that should be seen by all theatre lovers before it moves on to seasons in Melbourne and Canberra.

Reviewed by Samantha Bond
Twitter: @sambond

Venue: Dunston Playhouse
Season: 24 Jul – 15 Aug 2015
Duration: 90 minutes
Tickets: $69 full / $59 conc / $31 under 30s
Bookings: Via BASS on 131 246 or

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