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Coleman tackles trust, humanity on Betrayal

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Antony Coleman has almost two decades experience under his belt.

His lead role as David King in SABC3’s High Rollers made him a bigger favourite with soap fans. So impactful was he that he walked away with the Best TV Actor in a TV soap honours at this year’s South African Film and Television Awards (Safta).

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Antony Coleman with Carly Graeme in a scene from Harold Pinter’s poignant comedy drama, Betrayal. Picture: Supplied

While he is known for his big and small screen credits, theatre was his home for many years.

He says: “I have been working in theatre for most of my career. I studied Drama at Wits University in the 90’s. Under the tutelage of people like David Piemer, Rob Joseph, Sarah Roberts and Dorothy Ann Gould, I received an excellent grounding in stagecraft. In the past few years I have been performing in TV dramas and soapies like High Rollers and Scandal but I am so glad to be back on stage performing live, especially in a such a powerful masterpiece like Harold Pinter’s Betrayal.”

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Before exploring his role in the play, he was asked about that rousing acceptance speech at the Saftas. Coleman explains: “The role of David King was fantastic to play. It’s not often you get to perform as a character so devoid of moral and social etiquette. It was enormous fun. I was very disappointed that such a well-received show was cancelled.”

On how he came to bag the role of Robert, the husband who is betrayed by his wife Emma (Carly Graeme) and best friend, Jerry (Tom Fairfoot), he says: “I auditioned for the part like everyone else. It was a gruelling process but I was lucky enough to make it through. I was quite desperate to do this play, though. It’s not often that we get to see plays like this, let alone be in them.”

Peeling back the layers of his character, he offers: “My character is the cuckold. His wife is cheating on him with his best friend. He finds out by chance, as is often the case, and then has to find a way to live with the knowledge. He manipulates his friend and his wife to maintain his dignity and pride. It’s a multi-dimensional character that is interesting and challenging to play.”

While the subject matter will make some people uncomfortable, it is pertinent in this day and age, when the divorce rate is the highest it has ever been. He agrees: “Absolutely. Pinter deals with themes that are universal: relationships, trust, betrayal, connection, humanity. Even though the play is set in London in the 70’s it is still very relevant to us today. Anyone who has attempted a relationship will be able to identify with this play. Even Donald Trump.”

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The play certainly sparks debate and provides food for thought. The unfolding poignant scenes are also offset by comic levity.

Coleman reveals: “Pinter was an absurdist and incredibly funny as a result. The genius behind Pinter’s writing is that he often turns expectation on its head, to great comic effect. Conversely, his characters, while complex, are completely relatable and we often find humour in the accuracy of Pinter’s observations.”

As for sharing the stage with Graeme, Fairfoot and Jose Domingos, he says: “I’ve worked with Jose on many shows and his cameo in this play is a treat to witness. He has funny bones. This is the first time I am working with Carly and Tom. I have huge respect and admiration for what they are bringing to their roles. They are both incredibly committed to the play and to its success.”

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As for Greg Homann, who wears the hat of director and set designer, he offers: “This play is a complicated maze of human interaction and the trap for us is often to overanalyse. Greg has a great ability to cut through the rubbish and find the truth of a moment. He’s been a great guide.”

In case you are wondering what’s next for this inimitable actor, he shares: “I will be appearing briefly on Mzansi Magic’s second season of Ring of Lies in the near future. And I’m also very excited to be playing CS Lewis in Freud’s Last Session, which is coming soon.”

Harold Pinter’s Betrayal is on at The Auto & General Theatre on the Square from June 6 to July 1.

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