Jon Brown, Hawthorne Theatre Review Team
I was delighted to be given the opportunity to review this play as I am a big Pinter fan; having previously directed and performed in his plays. I therefore was optimistic and hopeful of experiencing an absorbing and confrontational spectacle.
I wasn’t disappointed. Firstly, a brief synopsis; Emma is married to Robert, a publisher. However for seven years, she has been having an affair with Jerry, a literary agent who just happens to be Robert’s best friend. What is clever and refreshing is that it’s not the traditional beginning to end story, but quite the opposite as time is whipped upside down as the play presents major events in reverse. The audience are taken ahead to the end of the affair in the spring of 1977, and then are pushed into a complex and engrossing journey back to its very beginning; the winter of 1968.
As with all Pinter’s work, there is a quirki-ness, an oddness and a surreal feeling, that are all woven into his plays. The one element that significantly distinguishes his work from other playwrights is the execution of the dialogue. The deliberate use of pauses and at times sharp and quick delivery of the lines tend to be the heartbeat of all Pinter’s plays, making it a tense and at times uncomfortable experience.
I was very impressed with what London Classic Theatre did with the play. Despite it being set in the sixties and seventies, they injected a freshness and at times electrifying pace to all the scenes, that brilliantly counter-balanced the more anxious and uneasy silences.
Here were four actors who completely knew and ‘got’ the play and who were totally comfortable with the dialogue. For me it’s always special when you see a chemistry between actors, and when they have a giving nature on stage. They all had that. They bounced off each other brilliantly, controlling each scene with an exquisite self-assurance, ease and pace.
Pete Collis as Robert impressed me a lot with a cool confidence in all his scenes. He attacked the dialogue superbly and managed this complex and at times aggressive character with an effortless technique. Rebecca Pownall gave a delightful portrayal as Emma, bringing comedy and some welcomed lighter touches to the play. Her versatility as an actress was demonstrated throughout when we then saw the more fragile and vulnerable side of her character. Her best example of this was during the final scene where we see the foundation of Emma and Jerry’s affair. She begins with stubbornness and control but then visibly and emotionally conveys a delicate and exposed side, as she gives in to Jerry’s attention and lust. Steven Clarke as Jerry was ‘on the ball’ from the start showing energy, panache and attack from the opening few lines, which gave the play the best possible start. The only slight disappointment I had was that he at times seemed to over play the trademark ‘Pinterest’ delivery. This may have been deliberate but for me it resulted in a lack of depth and emotion to this character which I wanted to see more of. Max Wilson as the waiter was charming, funny and was skillfully and modestly integrated into the whole piece, delivering an impressive professionalism and energy.
I enjoyed the simple, very natural and thoughtful direction by Michael Cabot and it worked in total unison with Bek Palmer’s design. The subtle cut-out sections of rooms worked brilliantly and I believed in the various locations. It was all that was needed to allow you to focus totally on the characters, action and the writing. Andy Grange’s lighting was simple and beautifully delivered. Having the actor’s set each new scene and location was perfect and slick and following this with a brief announcement of the year and season was a helpful and nice touch.
Betrayal is a ruthless exploration of the complexity of the human heart and is definitely one of Pinter’s most accessible works with desire at its core. I very much look forward to seeing a performance by London Classic Theatre again. It was enthralling and tense and I was really drawn into the bubble of this stimulating piece of theatre; a bubble that definitely didn’t burst for me.