Bed as fifth character in Converse Theatre’s production of Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’


The bed. What do we associate with a bed? What do you see? A place to rest? A place to think? A place to make love? A place to fuck? The bed is the omnipresent fifth narrator in our production. Always looming over the proceedings onstage, it smacks you in the face as soon as you walk into the performance space, and refuses to move out of your eyeline for the rest of the proceedings. Though not as unruly as Tracy Emin’s eponymous bed, nor as formal as a hotel bed, it’s white virginal appearance belies the true nature of its role in the play. This is not a family bed.  This is not a bed in a home. Or is it? This bed has deeper connotations. Pinter did not direct this bed to be there, it was the company’s decision – driven by the actors – that its presence should be felt. The bed intrudes on our reading of every scene in the play. It refuses not to be heard. The bed is the scene of the betrayal. The scenes of Betrayal revolve around it.

Aggi’s notes from rehearsal 3 November 2013 focussing on scene transitions:

Company assembled and got coffee. John S set up sound and cast created set. General set up. John B then assembled the company and discussed the proceedings of todays rehearsal. We began by setting rehearsal times and dates for the forthcoming month and clarifying get in day and runs of each version of the play. It was agreed we would do four run throughs on the Sunday and Monday before production week.

John S clarified that he was generally there with the sounds he has created for the show. He just needs to make final adjustments for entrances and exits.

John B specified that todays rehearsal would be focusing on entrances and exits and discussion around these ensued. John B is interested in the play being an organic whole and the audience being able to follow the characters impulses throughout the whole play, rather than delineating between scenes. John A advised he would like clarification around entering/ exiting in character in this case and opinions were shared around this. Aggi advised that she felt the vast majority of the exits and entrances worked in the first playing of the play last Sunday.

Work then began on looking at the projection above the bed and to the side, with sight lines being considers. Small discussion round the bed’s focus again, with the cast keen to move it slightly to be more present. This discussion inspired Aggi to write the first paragraph above for possible contribution to the programme

Opening: It was decided that the audience should walk into the performance space with just the bed in it. This means the beginning of the performance is the scene setting by Nemma for Scene One. Meanwhile Jo and Kate as Nemma (non-Emma) played with moving the table into place (now by the side of the bed due to restricted view issues.

Beginning now runs:

  • Audience enter to bed and projection of Betrayal
  • John B does welcome speech/ scene setter
  • Music as Nemma sets scene one
  • Emma enters and scene begins

It was noticed that Jerry and Emma have met at the bar and he is ordering drinks, so Emma has gone to find a table and will need to wave to Jerry as he come in.

The projections are going to depict the setting and time of the scene in scrolling writing for Scene One the order of the writing is:

 Non-Emma; pub

Emma: noon & spring

Jerry: projection goes off

Transition from Scene One to Two: discussion was held around if Jerry could move the set into his house (Scene Two). This idea was played with and various impulses tried out with both Simon and John playing Jerry. Finally decided that Jerry would move his own chair to in front of the bed and put a chair where he would like Robert to sit. John B advised that Robert could move this chair if he did not want to sit where Jerry placed him. Audience view point became an issue with this movement, and once Robert placed his chair to the side, on a slight angle and behind Jerry, John A advised that this then changed the dynamics of the scene. John B advised this was ok, but John A would like this to be the last change from here in to create clarity.

Transition from Scene Two to Scene Three. John B advised the emotional through-line is with Jerry so he should stay on stage. This resulted in discussion around costume change. It was decided that Jerry would have a jacket in scene one, which he takes off, then puts on for the transition form scene one to two, and then takes off again to place on the chair in his house for scene two. This was agreed.

Than moved into discussions around full transition from scene two to scene three. Robert finishes his drink and takes Jerry’s glass and decanter off. Nemma slides table in front of Jerry who remains in position and Nemma adds table cloth. Jerry puts on Jacket and Emma enters and puts jacket on bed.

Transition from Scene Three to Scene Four: Emma leaves, music comes in, Jerry stands and exits. Nemma waits for his exit and then enters –  folds tablecloth, puts on chair, puts flap down and moves to back with flaps down, then puts chairs back into audience, one either side this time, leaving tablecloth on chair when moving and then exiting with tablecloth. Projections happen during this.

Transition from Scene Three to Four: Nemma exits. Jerry enters and is still, briefly. Immediately enters with glasses and begins.

Transition from Scene Four to Five:  Jerry exits. Robert takes glass from Emma and she cries on his shoulder. Nemma enters, takes glass from Robert and places glass whiskey bottle on table, Emma takes off jumper, puts on bed, gets on bed, read book, which is under pillow from beginning. Robert then goes to table, removes waistcoat and puts on chair in audience. Pours himself a drink and goes to window. Scene begins.

Transition from Scene Five to Six: Robert exits, Projections begin on Nemma’s entrance. Nemma enters and moves waistcoat and bottle to bed (bottle on floor by side of bed, waistcoat on bed), then moves table (which is when projection changes again), chairs and takes off waistcoat, bottle and jumper when exits. Emma stays on bed as flat is created and then exits with book after Nemma exits. Jerry enters with bottle, corkscrew and two glasses. Opens wine with corkscrew. Emma enters with basket.

 Transition from Scene Six to Scene Seven: sex happens on bed. Nemma enters and gathers glasses from sides of bed, and bottle and basket. Puts bottle and glasses and tablecloth into basket. Puts basket down at end of bed. Moves table to restraunt position and places chairs at either end. Takes basket off and gives signal to Jerry. Nemma is put into apron by stage management. Jerry and Emma exit. Music change. Nemma reenters as waiter and puts tablecloth on. Robert enters with wine glass. Waiter reenters and lays table from pre-set tray, as Robert sits and drinks. Waiter competes laying table as jerry enters and sits.

Transition from Scene Seven to Eight: Jerry and Robert exit with their glasses(tension maintained) Waiter enters and puts tray on chair, adds bottles, glasses and sundries to tray, folds table cloth over arm. Folds down flap of table and leaves in place. Sets chairs for flat, one next to table (SR) one under table (SL). Emma enters wearing her new apron with two glasses and two bottles (one wine, one spirits). Jerry needs bowtie in pocket.

Transition from Scene Eight to Nine: Emma leaves taking wine bottle, vodka bottle and wine glass. Jerry takes vodka glass off table and moves chair into audience SL and sits. Nemma enters with mirror, puts on chair and moves table to back. Places chair in front of table and mirror on table. Nemma checks and exits.

The company then worked on Scene 8 with Simon as Jerry and Kate and Jo alternating as Emma

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