From left: Asad Raza Khan, Lydia DeMedeiros and Arjun Burman Image Credit: Supplied

Relationships are complicated things that take on a life of their own. They wriggle out of frameworks set by society and influence people to do their bidding, often in astonishing ways.

In one of Harold Pinter’s best works, ‘Betrayal’, these unconventional paths brokered by relationships are exposed. Raw and vulnerable then the story beggars the question, ‘how far would you go for love?’

Tall Tales Production brings the officially licensed production of the Broadway and West End hit to Dubai on April 1-3 at The Junction in Al-Serkal avenue. The play centres on a love triangle; a woman and her husband and his best friend; and explores deception, between lovers and friends.

The story rolls out in a chronologically backward style, crushing together bittersweet memory, what could have been and what is. Asad Raza Khan, who plays the husband’s best friend and wife’s paramour, Jerry, says: “The non-linear part of the story-telling is the most difficult, and yet the most intriguing part of the play. The first time we rehearsed, we actually rehearsed in reverse order to get a feel of the story in chronological order. Only after that did we run it like it will be presented.”

For Sikendar Hemani, the director, the fun lies in blurring bias. “I believe this is one of the handful of plays (if not the only one), which picks this method of storytelling going in reverse order. You start when everything is destroyed and learn about how the three characters are dealing with it. I think everyone will form a bias or judgement by the end of the first two scenes and we hope that when the curtain drops after scene 9, they would at-least re-think about their stance on each of the characters. The audience are in for a fun, twisted, confusing, and emotional ride!”

Almost didn’t happen

Besides the hurdle of swapped time scales, this particular production also had to contend with illness; cast members contracted COVID-19 days head of the play’s debut. “We actually were thinking of cancelling the production as the new actors would need to learn the lines, block the play, create their characters, find costumes, find chemistry with other actors, and get used to tech and stage – all in five days. The love that the theatre community gave was over-whelming with dozens of people volunteering to fill in the role and/or help out in any way possible.”

“The actors are doing much better (thank God) and all the rest are now negative and safe,” he adds.

And so the show will go on. And it will ask another important question: Does love always comes with betrayal of some sort? Lydia DeMedeiros, who plays Emma, says: “No, I don't think it always does, but I think it often does. I think only God can love perfectly. We are imperfect humans, and even if we are trying to do something good, we can (and will) still make mistakes. There is a surrendering in loving someone. You will often surrender your own wants and desires to make that person happy. But in a way, you are 'betraying' yourself by submitting to someone else's desires. But that's love. But in a relationship, you can also love yourself, and you surrender the other person for your own personal wants and even needs. So maybe it's not 'betrayal' in the enormous way it is meant in Pinter's play, but little betrayals as well. I think the beauty of this play is that it is not just the large "betrayal" of infidelity. That's the easy one to see. It is the minor betrayals as well, the ones not spoken. The ones in the pauses. The ones that if you aren't paying attention you will miss. Those betrayals that are so human, every day, and which compounded together can lead to one large betrayal.”

In Pinter’s tale a lot is left unsaid, left to be unspooled by the witnesses. “The genius of Pinter is for us to see beyond the black and white into the grey,” explains Arjun Burman (Robert).

‘Betrayal’, which was first written in 1978 and performed on November 15 at the National Theatre in London, has stood the test of time. Perhaps it’s because just as humans are creatures we seek to understand, so are relationships. They can mould us into better versions of ourselves or worse. But they will never leave us unchanged.

Don’t miss it!

Tickets to see ‘Betrayal’, which runs April 1-3 at the Junction Al Serkal Avenue, start at Dh80. The shows run at 7.30pm each day, with an additional 3pm play on Saturday.

The shows run at 7.30pm each day, with an additional 3pm play on Saturday.