The American university in Cairo Performing and Visual Arts opened its 1998 Spring Season on February 13th in Wallace Theater on campus with Harold Pinter’s play, Betrayal. This play was directed by Eric Grischkat, and the costume design was made by Timaree Mc Cormick. AUC students have strongly participated in the designing, lighting, setting, directing, and in acting. These students were Noha Farouk, Shereef Bishay, Karim Bishay, Ramsi Lehner, and Alaa Shalaby.
Betrayal is play that tell the story of two very close friends, Robert, and Jerry. Both of them were married and had children. Both families loved, and respected each other. However, this did not last long because betrayals took place. This play includes eight betrayals; therefore, one can obviously see how well fit the title is to the main theme of the play . In the first place, Emma resorted to betraying her husband because she did not find true love with him so she thought she could find it with Jerry . However, she failed this time too and so she tried Casey. Robert was not the right person for Emma as he was so cold. There is nothing that moves him even when he knew that Emma was betraying him , he was only concerned with whether Ned was his son or not. This is not the normal action of any husband who have just found out that his wife has been betraying him with his best friend for five whole years !
Pinter has written this play in an unusual way . Its actions move from the latter to the former;( i.e. the play began in the year 1977 and ended in 1968 ). Pinter said that the most effective way to handle this play was by moving backwards. I agree with him because if it moved normally from the oldest to the latest it would not have been that interesting .
Eric Grischkat keeps the energy and the actors moving, remembering that the main idea is the dishonesty and betrayal of friends who are humans, not only ideas. He left enough room for the audiences to use their imagination by following the too many pauses and silence that are found in the script. The production of the play was successful in that it was far better than reading it . Eric managed to choose the right crew to work with, the actors , the designer of the sets, scene, costumes, lights, sound, and projections . They all worked together to present this good performance. The Wallace Theater is a proscenium theater with low ceiling and small stage which is an obstacle to the director but he managed to solve this problem with the help of the set designer. The action was clear and it build climatically. There was a variety in the mood. All the characters changed a lot from the beginning till the end of the play.
The costume and set designer, Timaree McCormick, has created a new world through her special choice of colors of the sets and of the costumes as both of them conveyed the place and the time where and when the play occurred. In Scene Nine, when it was 1968, Emma was wearing mini-skirts which matched the fashion of that time, while in Scene One the style were different as it matched the fashion of the 70s. Timarees choise of colors had certain significance . For example, Jerry kept wearing the brown color throughout the play. The significance of this is that he is the person who knows nothing and who betrayed his best friend . She made an excellent use of every single part of the stage. Although the space was limited, she managed to overcome this problem. For example, the entrances and exits were done from the outside of the Wallace because of the lack of the space. She made use of every piece of furniture on the stage, such as the bed that was used twice. It was once Roberts and Emmas hotel room in Venice and other time , the bed inside the bedroom in Roberts and Emmas house in London. She used the apron of the stage as the balcony in the hotel room in Venice. The arrangement of the furniture affected the movement of the actors. She succeeded in her job.
The lighting, by Alaa Shalaby, was so important to the actions in the play. He knew when to blacken the stage and when to focus the light on one character .He used a wonderful dark blue color to express the night and it was especially used in Jerry and Emmas flat. He tried to overcome the problem of the white walls and he managed to do so by painting the floor black.
The characters in Betrayal are all great except for some performances that I personally did not like. Emma, Noha Farouk, is a good actor but l had the feeling that she was over acting . She was not natural in her actions and reactions, especially when she was laughing or crying. However, she had good skills in moving and speaking.
Jerry, Shereef Bishay, played a very important role and he played it perfectly well. He gave the impression that he is so truthful and that he was really angry when he knew that his best friend Robert knew about his relationship with Emma. His movements were matching so well with the actions in the play. He is the one who gave a slight sense of humor to this non-comic play.
To sum up, I think that the production of Betrayal was saved by director Eric Grischkats skillful staging. I like the production very much although I did not like the play at all when I first read the script. The performance was well planned for and it was represented in such a perfect way. Students had proved their capabilities and their theatrical abilities to succeed . The set design is one of the important factor in the success of this play, together with the lighting. That is why I will participate in any coming interesting work!