Photo: Marc Brenner
Interview with writer Torben Betts
Can you tell me a bit about the play?
I wanted to try writing a love story in reverse so basically the play is a bit of an experiment. I also wanted to write something that could be played by just two actors (there are only two characters) but could also be performed by twelve. There are six scenes, each roughly of the same length, so that hopefully all twelve actors will have something to get their teeth into.
The play is about a man and a woman who meet at a time of looming war and I suppose it looks at how hard it is to find love and meaning when you live in catastrophic times.
What are some of the main themes that you hope to bring out?
I'm not very good at explaining what the themes in my plays are (I prefer to leave that to other people) but if I looked on THE ILLUSION OF TIME dispassionately I would probably say it's a meditation on the nature of love, war and art. It also asks whether it's possible, to paraphrase Philip Larkin, to "climb clear of our wrong beginnings" and transcend any trauma that has befallen us in our past. I think that most writing, certainly mine, is an attempt to shed some light on the extreme dysfunction of our human condition which then might encourage us to look for ways to heal ourselves or make sure, as Marcus Aurelius put it, that we don't belong amongst the ranks of the insane.
What are some of the challenges presented by the play?
I would say that treading the fine line between the comic and the tragic here might be tricky and also having six actors representing the same man and six the same woman will have its own challenges.
Can you describe it in 3 words?
Experimental, tragic, backwards.
Interview with director Emma Lucia
What is it like to work with a play that has never been produced before?
It’s always wonderful to work with a ‘real' ‘live’ playwright who you can interrogate about the world of the play and its characters. The Illusion of Time does not present immediate answers, instead it poses intriguing questions. Where are we? It’s not the present day. There are hints of war torn Europe in the 30’s but it is never clearly stated. Who are the characters we meet? We don’t ever get to learn their names. Also, the sequence of events runs in reverse through time, so you have to wait until the end of the play to find out how the characters met. Each scene is a glimpse, a moment in time - a love affair brought sharply into focus with a backdrop of violent conflict and displaced people.
It’s a responsibility and an honour to be handed a new play and breathe life into it for the first time.