01 February 2023

Great review by Andre Delicata for The Sunday Times of Malta


Lovers lose lust at the limits of loyalty

'Betrayal': a poignant and nuanced portrayal of love and infidelity at Blue Box.

The intimate space provided by Blue Box was the ideal setting for Harold Pinter’s intense 1978 play Betrayal. The title implies the infidelity that underpins the plot and forms part of the over-arching theme. However, its multi-layered implications stray away from the more obvious spousal infidelity that the two lovers, Emma (Naomi Said) and Jerry (Edward Caruana Galizia) subject their other halves to. It also refers to a much more nuanced and complex form of betrayal that involves their betrayal of each other – a love affair that starts passionately and fizzles out to a tense avoidance masked by awkward pleasantries.

With short musical interludes by violinist Sean Borg, the play’s scenes unravelled in reverse chronology, detailing the affair between Emma and Jerry two years after their break-up, working back to their first illicit kiss. Their relationship with Robert (Nicholas Jackman), Emma’s husband and Jerry’s best friend, is fraught with guilt and tension as they navigate varying levels of deception and multiple lies around him. Caruana Galizia’s Jerry reflected the exhilaration and joy that the thrill of the chase and subsequent conquest gives you, but this is coupled with regret, guilt and eventual complacency. The last emotions he experiences are of course, some of first we witness in the play, preceded only by a desire for a conciliatory acquaintanceship with Emma two years post-breakup.

Given that the audience is introduced to them picking up the pieces, the play acts as a post-mortem dissection of a now soured affair that has reached its natural end. Said’s Emma is also keen to brightly sweep all their experiences under the carpet and has clearly moved on to a new affair with Jerry’s client.

Both Caruana Galizia and Said managed to pull off the subtle poignancy of their situation with an artful mastery of tension which director Ian Moore used to its full potential. Said’s interactions with Jackman’s Robert are also telling of a refinement in dynamics – their scenes were almost filmic in quality as they gave a close-up and highly intimate exploration of relationship break-down in multiple senses – Robert’s anger and disappointment veer from rage to restraint in a fantastic show of control by Jackman. Indeed, Moore’s incisive direction could only be executed thanks to the incredibly talented cast he had to work with.

The sparsity of Pinter’s language and the economy with which the sentiments are dispensed, was sustained successfully by the actors whose poised delivery masked the smouldering emotions beneath the surface. Betrayal’s exploration of the subtleties of an uncomfortable topic and its honest and very realistic portrayal of the subsequent emotional storm it creates, is masterful to see as his script comes to life in very skilful and highly talents hands. THIS PRODUCTION DESERVES TO BE APPLAUDED AS AN OUTSTANDINGLY MATURE AND TOUCHING PIECE OF THEATRE. LONG MAY WE KEEP SEEING MORE OF THIS. A VERY WELL DONE TO ALL.

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