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Repertory Philippines’ ‘Betrayal’ theatrical strength lies in trickling down and holding back

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — There is much to relish about stories that do not get the happily ever after, and much to unpack for cases of wretched love. For its 2024 season opener, Repertory Philippines is staging Harold Pinter’s Betrayal with Vanessa White as Emma, James Cooney as Jerry, and James Bradwell as Robert.

A recipient of The Olivier Award and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, Betrayal traces the affair of Emma and Jerry, whose best friend Robert is the former’s husband. The play is a three-hander and takes place in London and Venice over a nine-year period. It opens with the preset of a London gallery where Emma works as head curator. In its after hours, Jerry approaches her and she confesses that she has revealed their affair to Robert. Upon confrontation, Jerry finds out Robert has known for years.

The characters’ personal lives play a stark contrast to the seemingly flat and highly manicured universe of the art and publishing industries, with their pristine white settings and restrictions imposing. Under Director Victor Lirio‘s guidance, what seems like an impersonal encounter unravels the tangled mess of three individuals with the intrinsic need to be desired.


While Betrayal is centered on Emma, it is not strictly feminine nor does it castigate her for the choices she makes. She, along with Jerry and Robert, lend themselves to universal issues of fidelity and disloyalty.

The play would appeal less to theater-goers more smitten by theatrics and antics because Betrayal draws from deadpan humor and inside jokes only the audience is privy to. There is also much to appreciate about the level of control the acting permits when one considers how impassioned and mawkish interpretations of affairs tend to be. Case in point, when Jerry congratulates Emma on her pregnancy, he acts as an unexploded bomb potent with so many things unsaid.

By keeping the stage free from distractions, the impact of the dialogue and perceptible silence are significantly felt. Set Designer Miguel Urbino brings to life the Saatchi gallery with the poignant “Paris in the Fall” by Pacita Abad central to the stage.

The play concludes in the beginning of Emma and Jerry’s affair with a beautifully devised will-they-wont-they chase on the first anniversary of the gallery. The scene plays a clever parallel to galleries’ common rule to refrain from touching the artwork.

In an entertainment ecosystem where everything is overtly and painfully made obvious, Repertory Philippines’ Betrayal is a rare chance to be attentive and discerning as an audience. Its introspection of human nature as wily and of intimacy as organic attraction makes Betrayal a play that contains multitudes in every beat.

Betrayal runs from March 01 to March 17 at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater in RCBC Plaza.

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