Betrayal: Harold Pinter
London SW1Y 4DN
Tues-Thurs & Sat 7.30pm; Wed, Sat 3pm;
Friday 5.30pm & 8.30pm
Runs: 90mins without interval. To August 20
TICKETS 0844 871 7622
Review: by Carole Woddis of performances seen June 17, 2011
Who is really betrayed in Betrayal? The conventional answer would be Robert, the publisher husband of Emma having a long affair with literary agent, Jerry.
But Harold Pinter, whose personal experience of his seven year affair with broadcaster Joan Bakewell is said to have inspired the 1978 play, of course does nothing so simple.
Instead, this rubric cube of the emotional debris engendered by such an event reveals a far more complicated outcome in which Jerry is also seen to have in part been betrayed by Robert, his very best friend, who failed to tell him he had known about the affair for longer than Emma has revealed.
And Emma? She is also betrayed in the tacit understanding and reciprocal affection between the two men.
The subtle way Pinter exposes the subterfuges and hidden codes of this literary trio – wives and chidren never far from the conversation but crucially used as conversational smoke-screens – is perhaps one reason for its popularity since its premiere in 1978 at the National Theatre.
Filmed in 1983 (with Patricia Hodge, Jeremy Irons and Ben Kingsley), revived by Peter Hall at Bath in 2003 in a splendidly ambiguous production suggesting memory’s evanescence, by far the best recent account was Roger Michell’s at the Donmar (2007) in which Sam West and Toby Stephens brought out new brutalities and alliances..
Ian Rickson’s West End production with Kristin Scott Thomas as Emma and the lover and husband played by Douglas Henshall and Ben Miles promises much. After all, Scott Thomas is the past mistress of emotional and physical inflection.
She doesn’t disappoint, suggesting hidden rivers of passion with a sideways glance, vulnerability with a raising of the neck – at her most vulnerable with arms outstretched, suppliant.
But strangely, this rewound account that works backwards from 1977 fails to exert the same kind of tantalising thrill. Henshall, directed by Rickson, often in spotlight, as if an outsider, seems constrained although Miles convincingly captures Robert’s bullying menacing quality. Rickson, unusually, misses the play’s heartbeat which is strict, minimal and deadly. Prettily in period, for once the Pinter cutting edge seems curiously blunted.
Jerry: Douglas Henshall
Emma: Kristin Scott Thomas
Robert: Ben Miles
Waiter: John Guerrasio
Director: Ian Rickson
Designer: Jeremy Herbert
Co-Costume Designer: Edward K Gibbon
Costume Consultant: Stefano Pilati
(for Yves Saint Laurent)
Lighting Designer: Johanna Town
Composer: Stephen Warbeck
Sound Designer: Ian Dickinson (for Autograph)
Casting Director: Sam Jones CDG
Resident Director: Sasha Milavic Davies
Producer: Sonia Friedman
First performance of this production at the Comedy Theatre, London, May 27, 2011