Theatre Royal, Bath & Duchess Theatre, London 2003
Directed by Sir Peter Hall
||Janie Dee &
Aden Gillet Photographer: Nobby Clark
Designed by John Gunter
Lighting by Peter Mumford
Sound by Gregory Clarke
Janie Dee as Emma
Aden Gillett as Jerry
Hugo Speer as Robert
James Supervia as Waiter
|Financial Times - Friday 10th
Actors often have to face the challenge of growing older on stage,
but in Harold Pinter's Betrayal they have an even more difficult task:
they have to grow younger as the play progresses. Pinter's play tracks
the course of an affair, but it does so backwards: it opens with a
meeting between the two lovers some years after the affair ended;
it finishes with the first erotically charged encounter between the
two, nine years earlier. The performers have to chart the stages in
the affair, discarding the layers of guilt, to become the younger,
fresher. <br> In Peter Hall's fine revival the three actors
manage this beautifully: from Hugo Speer's brittle, tight-lipped husband,
Robert, emerges as a chipper young man; Aden Gillett's Jerry loses
his air of rumpled regret to reveal an ardent, impulsive wooer; Janie
Dee, meanwhile, in an excellent performance that drives the play,
wriggles free from her character's bruised wisdom to become a girlishly
lovely young woman.
These performances emphasise how the play's structure makes the story
even more poignant: we see all too clearly the price for the characters'
Hugo Speer & Aden Gillett Photographer: Nobby Clark
Janie Dee & Hugo Speer Photographer: Nobby Clark
|The play asks one big question - if
you knew where a move would lead would you still make it? - and many
smaller ones: about who betrays whom, about memory and blame. For
the betrayal of the title works on many levels: the play's structure
allows the audience to see the many tiny acts of deception that the
bigger one involves. When Jerry and Robert meet for a boozy lunch,
for instance, we know that the husband knows about the affair, but
that the lover does not know he knows. And so the lies that erode
their close friendship as well as the marriage emerge.
Hall directed the play's premier 25 years ago, and this revival is
finely tuned as you might expect. Hall and his cast make us see that
while Emma might need the two very different men, they also need each
other. They suggest, paradoxically, that the very betrayals that destroy
them also bind them - for a while. And so the production feels its
way through the many ambiguities of this bitter comedy.
|The Guardian – Thursday
11th October 2003
Gender politics in Hall's Pinter revival.
Pinter's Betrayal was seen at Bath this summer in tandem with Design
for Living. But Peter Hall's production arrives in the West End sadly
shorn or the Coward. It also has to contend with the usual grisly
first-night crowd with its ringing phones and hacking coughs. Fortunately
both it and Pinter's play are strong enough to survive the ill-mannered
Having dismissed Pinter's play at its 1978 premiere, I have spent
the last quarter-century catching up with it. Each time I see it I
discover something new in this story of multiple betrayal which reverses
It starts in the present with the wonderfully edgy pub reunion of
ex-lovers, Emma and Jerry. As time's arrow speeds backwards over the
previous nine years, we see the cumulative nature of betrayal: not
only has Emma's husband, Robert, concealed his knowledge of the affair
from Jerry, his best friend, but has also used his cuckoldry as an
alibi for his own liaisons.
What I got from Peter Hall's probing production is that this is also
a play about memory and about differing male-female expectations.
Each encounter in the play is shadowed by the past: there's a bitterly
funny lunch between the two men when Jerry's musky memory of Emma's
sensuality is matched by Robert's stinging discovery of this wife's
infidelity. But what makes the play more than an ironic game is Pinter's
compassionate awareness of gender differences: I'd never before realised
how much Emma treats the Kilburn love nest as a second home, whereas
for Jerry it is a sexy escape from domesticity. The power of the past
is visibly registered in John Gunter's composite set, with its background
of books, bikes, squash rackets and street signs: all referred to
in the text.
Janie Dee's glowing performance reminds us that Emma is the play's
central figure. There's a heart-stopping moment in the pivotal Venetian
scene when Dee stares fixedly at a novel, knowing that Robert has
discovered her secret. But, as the play moves back in time she beautifully
sheds guilt and stress like a snake sloughing its skin.
Hugo Speer as Robert skilfully conveys outward insouciance masking
bafflement and hurt: at one point he turns on Emma with brutal misogyny
which suggests his dignity as been wounded.
Aden Gillett subtly reminds us that Jerry is both the prime mover
and the ultimate outsider in these marital manoeuvres. But this is
precisely what gives Pinter's play its lasting power: the realisation
that everyone is a victim in the complex mathematics of betrayal.
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