Thursday, 23 March 2017

Betrayal at Derby Theatre

Earlier this week I was tempted out to see  Derby Theatre's latest production - Betrayal by Harold Pinter. If you're not familiar with it, it's basically the story of a love triangle; Jerry (played by Philip Correia) and Emma (Kemi-Bo Jacobs) had an affair, but Jerry was also best friends with Emma's husband Robert (Ben Addis). As the story moves from the present, two years after the end of the affair, and 'rewinds', scene by scene, to its beginning seven years earlier, you begin to wonder who was most betrayed?

The characters start out as successful, bordering on middle-age, and more than a little awkward with each other, but as the years peel away, so does a certain level of veneer, and their real selves emerge. The actors were all brilliant, getting younger with each scene, while the 'perspex box' set gave the impression of them being constantly in the public eye even when they thought they were private, but the outstanding aspect was the innovative idea of projecting images of the actors onto the backdrop.

I always feel there's a difficulty about staging a play like this, which for the main part is just two people talking to each other - awkward or passionate, bored or angry, every nuance of emotion needs to be portrayed by the actors, and seen by the audience. It feels like staging it would work best in the intimate setting of a tiny Fringe production where the audience can see every flicker on the actors' faces, or on TV or film, where the director has the option of close up camera work. As it is, first time director Lekan Lawal has come up with an excellent way of creating that intimacy in a large theatre; cameras on stage projected larger than life close-ups of the actors onto a backdrop above them, with the additional twist of the image being that seen by the other actor, rather than the audience.  For example, Emma turns away from her husband's questioning, and faces the audience, but the projected image is of her turned back as seen by Robert. It's like seeing the scene play out from both of their perspectives and even if it sounds a little confusing, it isn't; it's brilliant and I loved it.

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