The greatest strength of the upcoming Fools and Kings production of Pinter’s morally ambiguous account of a complex love triangle, is that it succeeds in making the audience feel like strangers. In a play in which the moral compass is entirely corrupted, I have no idea how far I can trust me reaction to the protagonists. There is no victim: no betrayer or betrayed; no right or wrong.
What we are left with to fill this vacuum is a series of highly intense scenes, which are presented to us even more disconcertingly out of chronological order. As an audience we are trying to judge a play which refuses to fulfil the comfortable categories of the immoral and sympathetic. In the capable hands of director Max Gill we are made to feel complicit in the betrayal; a betrayal which at once applies to the sordid web of affairs and their implications for the status of marriage in middle-class suburban England.
I was privy to heart of the play: the scene around which the play revolves. Emma, played by Flora Zackon, is the unfaithful wife of Robert (Henry Faber, who has also featured in the Hollow Crown series of BBC Shakespeare). At the moment where he forces her to admit her infidelity they sit on a bed ostensibly in an image of comfortable intimacy, which soon morphs into a sinister portrayal of Robert’s controlling, violent nature. At the moment where he plays with her hair above her head I am grotesquely reminded of a puppeteer pulling the strings.
Although this may seem too full-on for a casual evening of entertainment, the fluency of the actors make this performance compulsively watchable. Flora Zackon in particular promises a versatile presentation of Emma, a woman in an unfulfilling marriage who we see both in the role of seductive mistress and jaded, oppressed spouse.
Clearly, Betrayal will not have you rolling in aisles. Instead you will be forced to endure an occasionally cringy, often emotionally wearing performance, which will nevertheless see you leave satisfied in the knowledge that you have seen, and lived, one of the more intense dramatic experiences of the year.