Betrayal review by Mary Strickson
Betrayal begins by the audience seeing a man, Jerry, awkwardly meeting a woman, Emma in a café. They discuss an affair that happened whilst they were both married a long time ago. As an audience we immediately see them as dishonest, feeling the stilted speech, the uncomfortable atmosphere, a negative vibe. After all, society views those cheating on their respective spouses this way; they are shunned by us. Cheaters. Deceivers. Yet in Betrayal these two characters are not cheaters or deceivers. The subtext of the play suggests that their partners knew about the affair all along- at least Emma’s husband Robert did. Emma is not hiding facts or misleading him.
As the play grows, we distance ourselves from that first encounter. We realise this affair becomes the positive in this situation, the honest and open passion within the play or at least in Emma and Robert's marriage. We discover that Emma's husband is not only dishonest, but abusive towards her, sexist and manipulative. She is in a loveless, failing marriage. The affair provides escapism and companionship that she needs. Love and appreciation for her lies within her relationship with Jerry. Our morals get flipped on their heads, as we realise the affair isn't the awkward debauchery that we first perceived.
The character of Jerry has a more complicated situation. His life is embedded in his wife's life, their children and their life together. He doesn't foresee himself leaving that life nor does he wish his wife to know of this affair. In many ways this is opposite to Emma- his reaction to their affair being outed is negative, whilst Emma views it positively, breathing a sigh of relief. The critical question asked in the play is whether Emma was right- does all Jerry want to do is have sex with her? The audience yearns to know.
They care for each other deeply. Whilst Emma doesn't love her husband, Jerry seemingly loves his wife. This shows the complexities of love: life isn't always straight forward. We shouldn't judge others without experiencing it for ourselves, we are quick to jump to assumptions but really we should be challenging those assumptions. Relationships are rocky journeys we move through, it isn't always simple. There is no right or wrong, or best way to progress.
The story was captivating and the characters well developed. The use of the stage was fantastic. Reminiscent of a squash court, the characters upon it were therefore playing a game throughout the play, not least noting the irony between the characters of Robert and Jerry commenting that they really should play squash again soon. They'd been playing throughout the play, moving around the court. The stage rotated and turned the whole time the actors were upon it, mirroring the story moving forward, and highlighting the sense of drama throughout the piece. In each transition between scenes, time sped on, reversed and progressed, in a fascinating use of recorded sound, video and projections.
Indeed it is the first time that I have seen a play which uses live filming upon the stage, cameras handheld by the characters themselves. Each third-wheel character who wasn't in the scene, sat in the corner holding this camera. Whilst two characters experienced their relationship, the third character was always in the room, ever present. They were always in their thoughts, the ghost in the room that each couple couldn't quite block out. The live footage shot of the actors was projected on the wall behind. Uncomfortable close ups, raw emotion and juddering details exaggerated for the audience. During scene transition, this footage was fast forwarded, with key audio snippets summing up the scene. The use of visuals, audio, movement and stage manipulation in this way was incredible and added to the heightened tension of the piece.