Author Archives: jbowtel

About jbowtel

Theatre director, drama therapist and practitioner of developmental transformations

Carousel cast of #conversebetrayal


Prior to our recent sell-out run at the Lincoln Drill Hall we did not particularly publicise that the cast were swapping roles in different performances. This was because it did not arise out of directorial conceit but as a natural consequence of two real life couples working on a play about a love triangle.

During rehearsals there was – naturally enough – a competitive stage during which actors tried to emulate aspects of the opposite player’s performance of each role. Working in this crucible the bones of the play emerged clearly, the interplay of desires and strategies each employ to get what they need without sacrificing too much – or not. We know what the characters do because it is in Pinter’s script, but the way they do it and the minutiae of why they do it ultimately depends on the soul of the character which is the being of the actor.

For a simple example, take height. I mention this having been passed over in my youth for the role of leading man by a director for being ‘too tall’ for the part. There is nothing in Betrayal demanding that Jerry be taller or shorter than Robert: Robert tells Jerry that he’s hit Emma once or twice, but anyone with much experience of domestic violence (or men’s talk, for that matter) will know that in itself implies next to nothing about the physiques of the parties involved. However, the way you kiss or shake hands with someone taller/shorter bigger/smaller than yourself forms part of a pattern of potentialities, including who and how we love and hurt other people. Sat in the audience do you always have a clear view or are you used to peering round other people’s heads? How does this impact the moments of empathy and alienation you experience in the pattern of relations you witness?

It is perhaps no surprise that audiences in the post-show discussions expressed difficulty imagining the roles played differently – the quantity and quality of the actors work over the past year of preparation for performance has created compellingly believable interactions between them onstage – but also a strong desire to see it done. Luckily, for those who want to see it again only differently, the carousel is coming round again in 2014:

·         27 February – Bonington Theatre, Arnold, Nottingham

·         7 March – Trinity Arts Centre, Gainsborough

·         14 March – Leeds University Studio Theatre, Leeds

·         15 March – Riverhead Theatre, Louth

·         27 March – Kings Lynn Arts Centre

·         28 March – Seven Arts Centre, Chapel Allerton, Leeds

Seasons in Betrayal


During the post-show discussion following our first performance of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal last night we were asked about the significance of seasons. In this second Converse Theatre production of the play, we project text stating the setting for each of the nine scenes, follow Pinter’s text by including the season: Spring (scenes 1 & 2) Winter ( sc.3) Autumn (4) Summer (5,6,7) Spring (8) Winter (9). I explained how these had influenced lighting and other aspects of the design, but that the deeper purpose is to point up the idea of circularity as opposed to linearity.

Due to the unusual structure of the play, in which the story of theses characters relationships is told in reverse chronology, so we see them in the first scenes remembering things we witness later in the play, there is a risk of obsessing about the time line. The two male characters are concerned about who knows what when. Naming the seasons helps us notice that what goes around comes around and the sense of rhythm in the relationships. Spring in the first two scenes alerts us to the potential of new possibilities opening up for Emma now it’s “all, all over”, perhaps the re-establishment of Jerry and Robert’s friendship after ‘not seeing each other for months’. Winter in scene 3 for the death of the affair. Autumn in Scene 4 as the cracks begin to show. Summer for the key scenes 5-7 when the situation is at its hottest. Spring for scene 8 when then the lover’s relationship is still ‘new’. Finally Winter for the last (earliest) scene, signalling darkness, subterranean desires.

This production has been a cycle of seasons in the making – initial meetings, the workshops, the period of learning, the intensive phase of rehearsals. Now its harvest time. So far the audience seem to be enjoying the results of what we have planted and tended and I am looking forward to the next questions our audience bring.

Betrayal in rehearsal 10th November 2013


The cast observed the minute’s silence at 11am.

John B checked in with cast about priorities for rehearsal.

  • Checking props for whole play might essentially mean running the play
  • Checking in on thoughts about the other performance of Betrayal on Friday and anything that people want to bring in form that
  • Kate – thinking about sound as John S has brought in four speakers and need to check levels
  • Simon – costumes for him and John A
  • Jo H – table needs changing

Discussion around Friday’s performance ensued- table idea has sprung from that. John B not attached to current table and would like to see the proposed other table. Jo H and Kate to source. Discussion around pace and emotional levels. John S said important to keep range of 1-10. John A expressed that there was an air of nervousness about going to the other show, but this was reconciled by the realisation that the two productions are so different that is was a nourishing team building exercise. Simon H agreed.

Decision to run play, but with actors choosing which roles they play in each scene according to what they want to practise. After Lunch we will look at bits which need rehearsing and work them. Cast to alert Aggi to note these so there is a formal record.

Scene One: played through with no stopping, Sound worked brilliantly with ambient sound realistic and great and aural marking of the cash register ringing when Jerry went to get another drink and the ’pip pip pips’ very enjoyable. Transition to scene two caused confusion, which was discussed and rectified. Jerry to stay in character and show the emotional journey to scene two.

Scene Two:  played through with no stopping. Magnificent. Transition again caused concern so paused rehearsal to print off copy of notes from last week from blog for clarification. Once we had these, discussion with Jo H and Kate around marking table and how this will work practically.  Decision that keeping table on same trajectory as bed is simplest solution.

Scene Three-Six:  played through with no stops. Continued running each scene noticing issues around transitions and music levels.

Performers growing in confidence and presence as the scenes progress. Accents now very good and diction clearer. Projection still possibly needing some work.

Break for lunch.

During lunch discussions around bottles, glasses, tweeting and costumes.

Began afternoon session with re-dux of Scene Four with Simon and Jo as Robert and Emma this time. Then ran into multiple versions of Scene Seven  to set technical aspects and to rehearse with both Jo and Kate as nemma and John as first Jerry then Robert and Simon as vice versa. Agreement that we were working this through rather than rehearsing straight through, with attention paid to detail and multiple tries at the technical precision needed for bringing on plates, wine etc and feeding this in with the lines. John B directed aspects of this with the cast, looking particularly at the relationship with the waiter. Ran through this in all possible pairings.

Ran scenes 8 and 9 with two pairs, then 9 with the other two pairs so we played all four possible endings. Close with final phrase of music over held tableau, hopefully spot-lit.