Tag Archives: Pinter

Carousel cast of #conversebetrayal

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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

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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.