‘A Picture of Betrayal’ is the latest play for adults from Irish born playwright, Noel O’Neill. With three dozen plays under his belt, Noel has gone back to his youth and produced this dark drama with a good deal of incidental humour. This is not one of Noel’s madcap hilarious plays, more a very well observed study of the lives and characters of the criminal fraternity in London’s East End at the time of the Kray twins. One of Noel’s greatest talents is his dialogue, he has real gift of defining his characters in every sentence.
After years of writing, Noel has gone back to acting and is currently starring in the ABC TV series, ‘The Heights’.
The two-hour play is on each Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening at 7.30 in the Old Mill Theatre, Mends Street, South Perth until Saturday 18th May. There is a Sunday matinée at 2.30 pm on Mother’s Day the 12th.
The scene: A smart flat on the 15th floor of a new, up-market tower building in the East End of London in the mid 1960s.
The set: was designed and built by the indefatigable George Boyd. The walls are cream with waist high dark green panelling. At the rear of the stage a couple of steps lead up to the flat’s front door. To the side is a passage to the bedrooms and on the other side a storage room.
A settee is covered with a dust cloth. Against one wall is a drinks cabinet. The walls are covered with a dozen genuine 18th century oil paintings. A score more are standing on the floor propped up against the wall.
The sound and lighting were designed by John Spurling.
The stage manager and foyer display photographer is Rachel Bartlett, who must be exhausted topping up the drinks bottles.
The door of the flat crashes open and a solidly built, elderly man staggers into the room and heads straight for the whisky decanter. He is the flat owner, Parker (the legendary James Hagan) and he has just had to climb the 180 steps to his flat landing as the ‘f…ing lift’ is broken yet again. He has barely got his breath back, when a smartly dressed woman walks in. It is Parker’s ex-wife Anne (Andrea Von Bertouch) who after a messy divorce has come to claim yet more alimony. A verbal tirade continues.
In the same flat, a few hours later we find a mild mannered, older gentleman Charlie (Tom Rees) waiting alone. The door bell rings, it is a young man in a dark suit, again exhausted by the climb. He is safebreaker Ray (Jackson Wimhurst) carrying some of his latest stolen goods under his arm. Charlie gives Ray a long lecture about his life in crime, with helpful tips and some of the people to avoid – the worst being Mickey (Gino Cataldo) and his sidekick, Bill (Rex Gray).
Life in the east End has winners and losers, but you cannot be both.
Jenny Prosser supervised the costumes; giving the men black suits, dark shirts and white ties, they looked threatening before they even spoke.
As the director, Noel has produced a fascinating and chilling look at the nastiness of East End crime. The cast really personified their characters, embodying the cruelty and innate fight for survival and success. The story had quite a few twists. I found a great deal more humour than most of the audience – could this mean I am a sick man?
A powerful play with a prizewinning cast in top form. Recommended. Noel’s next show is Ireland in 1852, when the famine forced migration.