Dubai: Play 'Betrayal' goes on with last-minute cast change
The hard-hitting drama not only stands out for the complex human relationships that it explores but also because it was put together during the pandemic.
Pardon the cliché, but this tale has to start with the overused phrase, ‘The Show Must Go On’, for the team behind the upcoming theatrical production Betrayal, to be staged in Dubai this weekend, have once again proved that when it comes to show business, regardless of the circumstances, the audience is never left disappointed. With just a week left into the show, when two cast members, Meghana Mundkur and Ahmar Iqbal, had to leave the production due to unforeseen circumstances; in true community and artistes’ spirit, two other wonderful actors, Lydia Medeiros and Arjun Burman stepped forward, literally, into their shoes for the sake of well, arts. We bring to you conversations with the cast that was and is, as we dwell on the present and future of this live performing art form. We’d just finished a photoshoot with the cast, and City Times, in the spirit of supporting the city’s culture scene took a call to bring this piece to you.
So, how exactly does one rehearse for a play during a pandemic we asked Sikendar Hemani, who is making his full-length directorial debut with the production. “It’s not easy! We live in times where masks and sanitisers are best friends and saviours; rehearsing for such a performance-driven play and not being able to see your actors’ expressions (half the time!) was a challenging task.” This is Tall Tales Production’s first full-length production during the pandemic, and has Vaishali Balgu as assistant director and Anusha Azeez as backstage and stage manager. A hard-hitting drama, the focus of Harold Pinter’s play is the complexity of human relationships. The 90-minute production, with an interval, would dissect the dynamics between husbands, wives, and lifelong friends. It has been officially licensed from the Broadway version, which ran over the past year in the UK and USA. The three main characters, Robert (Arjun), Emma (Lydia) and Jerry (Asad Raza Khan), will take the audience on a curious journey interwoven with wit, drama, love and deceit. “Betrayal has taught me that relationships can never be easy, and they are constant work. Desire is all but natural, it is how you deal with them which determines which direction your relationship heads towards,” said Asad Raza Khan, actor and producer of the show. Agrees Sikendar, “Amongst the many things that Betrayal has taught me is that people are not simple. Everyone we see, we categorise them as good or bad, right or wrong, etc. There is more to all of us, Betrayal shows us that not everything is black and white.”
In conversation with the old cast:
Interestingly, Ahmar Iqbal and Meghana Mundkur, who are no longer part of the play had shared this with us earlier. Talk about irony! The question put forward: What was the one lesson learnt whilst rehearsing for a play during a pandemic? “Expect the unexpected! You have to remain flexible and adjust the usual preparation process and style to ensure that safety comes first. And virtual rehearsals just don’t cut it — it’s really hard to create chemistry between characters over a Zoom call,” said Ahmar. Whilst Meghana said, “I think it brought to the forefront a lot of what I hold dear as my physical boundaries. The pandemic has taken away a lot of intimacy from our lives and as humans, most of us depend on that a lot to communicate and connect with people. I am suddenly hyper-vigilant about my physical space and boundaries. The lesson I’ve learnt and am still learning is how to draw those boundaries and communicate them effectively.”
In conversation with the new cast:
The question put forward: How does it feel to step into the shoes of the characters/actors last-minute? “Stepping into a role at the last minute is nerve-racking. You want to do a great job for the audience, but you also need to stay true to the character and the moment. Having a supportive cast and crew is a big plus!” shared Arjun. Whilst Lydia added, “There is no way I can fill her (Meghana’s) shoes. Top that with the fact that this cast has spent a year, with each other building their characters, relationships, bonding as a cast, and gaining a deeper understanding of the text. All I can hope to do is bring my best, try my hardest, and be thankful for this amazing community of artists and getting to be a part of this crazy experience of shotgun theatre.”
“No matter what happens where there is a will, there is a way! Whether it be limited capacity, strict Covid-19 restrictions and rules, rehearsing online, to giving the audiences a safe and meaningful experience – we (UAE) have done it all! Add to it, we had to work with a new cast at the last minute, and it was overwhelming to receive the support from the community.”
Asad Raza Khan, actor/producer, Betrayal
“I never knew it was in me to conduct rehearsals over video calls. Up until now, we used the medium to speak to our long-distant relatives back home. I never thought of exploring it (medium) for anything else but that. But as they say, where there is a will there most definitely is a way. I have learnt that if you are motivated enough and are working with equally driven people nothing is impossible.”
Sikendar Hemani, director, Betrayal
• On: April 1, 2, 3; 7.30pm, each day & 3pm (April 3)
• At: The Junction, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai
• Get your tickets: For Dh80, bookmyshow.ae