The 1978 play Betrayal comes alive through Soulpepper’s production. The cast and crew are immaculate, and the set is designed in an incredibly effective way. Time slides through the cracks in the audience’s fingers, manipulated with slight changes of costume, hairstyle, or the addition of a single prop. Streamlined and sensual, Betrayal brings to light what it means to be human: how we can hurt and how we can love in such grand measure.
The starring trio, Virgilia Griffith, Ryan Hollyman, and Jordan Pettle, all shine in their respective roles. It is evident in this production just how carefully rehearsed and thoughtfully made every decision is. Each reaction, pause, and line delivery means so much. In a play where the main occurrences happen between the words, this is paramount. A master of words and quick wit, playwright Harold Pinter is able to delve into the subtleties of relationship in Betrayal where meaning is derived from the absence of words. Even the long looks or variable delivery from the secondary character, played by Paolo Santalucia, adds to the whole. The tension in a scene can change in an instant as the audience realizes what meaning we can draw out. The entire narrative structure is intriguing, creative, and absolutely stands up in a modern era.
One of the aspects I enjoyed most in this play were the incredibly well-staged scene changes. There is rarely a moment when the stage is bare. All transitions are shown onstage, as a character changes a jacket or an item of furniture to signify an alteration in timeline or location. There were some incredibly beautiful moments, watching the actors’ faces dissolve from the emotion of their current scene and be remade in preparation for the one ahead. I have always been interested in seeing “behind the curtain”, as it were, and I was treated to much of that in Betrayal. Watching the work the actors put in in order to adopt new skins is a fascinating process. Some of the scene transitions had incredible variations in tone, and it was a special thing to view as the actors were able to manipulate this energy in front of me.
This production of Betrayal is one of the best productions of any dramatic theatre I have seen. It is provocative and intellectual, saddening and bolstering, and demands that the audience do some serious thinking. It makes us think what types of betrayal are inherent in any relationship in our lives, from friendships to partnerships. I would absolutely recommend this show to anyone looking for an interesting and wonderful night of theatre. I feel both wrung dry and so full from it.