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Betrayal review at Derby Theatre – ‘an assured and impressive debut’

Kemi Bo-Jacobs and Philip Correia in Betrayal at Derby Theatre. Photo: Robert Day Kemi Bo-Jacobs and Philip Correia in Betrayal at Derby Theatre. Photo: Robert Day
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What an assured and impressive debut this is for Lekan Lawal in his first main house production, the culmination of a placement under the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme. The reverse chronology of the seven-year affair between Emma (Kemi Bo-Jacobs) and Jerry (Philip Correia) is visual as well as verbal, so there’s nothing baffling about the movement back in time from estrangement to first encounter.

It’s like an unwinding film. The stages of the couple’s declining relationship are played out in the unforgiving transparency of a glass house on a slow revolve. Hand-held video cameras are constantly trained in silent, casual scrutiny on the speakers’ faces, and the footage is simultaneously projected in fragmentary and highly charged close-up. Memories are disjointed. Time changes are spinning and feverish, full of visual clues in small but telling detail. Colour is almost entirely absent in the later stages of the relationship, when the bed in the lovers’ transient flat is almost surgical.

Pinter’s dialogue is clear and perfectly timed, from the awkwardness, forced brightness and pregnant pauses of the first scene to the passion and playfulness of the last. And there are a multitude of highly charged moments in the dynamic between Bo-Jacobs, Correia and Ben Addis (as the betrayed and betraying husband, Robert). Exchanged looks speak volumes. Words hang in the silence. When Emma tries to frame the question she really wants to ask of Jerry – would he ever leave his wife? – we lean forward ourselves to wait for the answer.

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Cinematic and highly charged – a memorable debut for Lekan Lawal