Betrayal is critically regarded as one of English playwright, Harold Pinter’s, major dramatic works, Penned in 1978, the play is inspired by Pinter’s real life clandestine extramarital affair with BBC TV presenter of the day, Joan Bakewell.
Pinter’s affair lasted for seven years so it is, indeed, art mirroring life as Pinter’s characters, Emma and Jerry, undergo the machinations of their affair in this Laurence Olivier Award winning play.
Multi award winning actor, Tim Constantine, plays Jerry, described by Constantine as Robert’s oldest and best friend… or so he says. “It’s hard to reconcile that with the fact that he has a seven-year affair with Robert’s wife Emma, but then that’s precisely what the play explores. I would say Jerry is probably the antagonist of the play, although then again, I’m not sure if there is a clear protagonist/antagonist relationship in a play where all the characters are so often lying to each other, and weaving intricate webs of deceit.”
When asked what Constantine admires most about his character he responds: ” I’m not sure admire is quite the word. Jerry’s behaviour isn’t particularly admirable. I suppose it might be possible begrudgingly to admire his sheer audacity. He has a years-long affair with his best friend’s wife and then gets angry that the friend was aware of the affair, but didn’t let on he was aware. That’s some chutzpah right there!”
“Come to think of it though, he can be quite witty and charming, in a very English Oxford-and-Cambridge kind of way. He’s also naïve, and blinded by love, and cheerily optimistic. In spite of his infidelity, he genuinely seems to love his wife and children, and even Robert. But he’s definitely flawed. He’s a human being basically, even if he is a bit of a shit.”
The biggest challenge for Constantine will be making sure the dialogue feels realistic and engaging.
“Pinter makes such interesting use of language – repetition, double meanings, apparent non sequiturs, sudden changes of topic or tone – that it would be an easy trap to fall into to deliver it in a stilted or stylised manner. But it’s a challenge I am relishing, and, I hope, rising to.”
While the play’s premise hangs on a complex web of psychological behaviour , the essence of the theme of the work is, not surprisingly, in the title. However, there is a deeper sub text of human emotion that drives the work above simple melodrama as Pinter explores the longing, yearning and potential for darkness within us all.
Says Constantine: “It’s a play about love, trust (and betrayal of trust), infidelity, deceit, control, and the psychological games people play with each other. Also bubbling under are themes of memory – how people remember events differently – and time (the play famously goes backwards chronologically, starting two years after the end of a seven-year affair, and ending with the beginning of the affair).”
Even in our technologically heightened and somewhat jaded modern era, Pinter’s themes are constant and relatable and remain alive. Constantine concurs stating that he believes these sorts of themes are eminently relevant today. “So even though the play is rooted in the late 1960s through to the late 1970s, modern audiences can easily relate to the portrayal of relationships and friendships gone sour; to being hurt by, and hurting, people we love. People will always fall in and out of love, and human relationships will always be complex – these are timeless truths, that storytellers have utilised for hundreds of years, and will continue to do so.”
Pinter is acting gold to any actor. With his trademark and unique approach to economical dialogue and the famous Pinter pause, it is all about what is not being said and what lies beneath that actors need to excavate.
“Pinter is exciting to play, as so much of the emotive aspect of the .story is relayed through subtext – through what the characters don’t say, ” says Constantine. “It’s exciting to explore the inner life and thoughts of the characters, while delivering words that on the surface can appear trivial, or irrelevant to the situation. Also, even though the play is a drama, Pinter delivers lashings of mordant wit and dry irony in his dialogue; qualities which I always find enjoyable to play around with.”
This will be Constantine’s first Pinter play – a bucket list thing, like Shakespeare, or berating an audience member whose mobile phone goes off during a show!
Betrayal is an intelligent and witty play about human relationships that, says Constantine, will leave you thinking long after the final curtain.
Featuring Tim Constantine. Michael Fenemore, Eleni Miller, and Matthew Laurence.
November 15 – 19