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A CurtainUp London Review
by Neil Dowden
Supposedly inspired by Pinter's own adulterous relationship with Joan Bakewell, Betrayal portrays the love affair gallery owner Emma has with her publisher husband Robert's best friend and business associate Jerry, a literary agent who also has a family of his own. The inspired technique of telling the story in reverse chronological order over a period of nine years reveals in discarded layers that the scenario is not as straightforward as it seems, with the dynamics shifting between the three protagonists.
Though featuring highly intelligent, cultured characters, a savage conflict is played out beneath the veneer of metropolitan sophistication which they inhabit. It transpires that these three people who love each other are all guilty of betrayal in their various ways. Pinter's brilliant use of subtext means that we are constantly trying to gauge the truth behind what is said, as language is often used in an attempt to conceal rather than express feelings.
This finely controlled production by Ian Rickson does full justice to the play's emotional complexity, allowing us to catch poignant glimpses of intense love and deep pain within the triangular relations. Jeremy Herbert's ingenious design of folding partitions moves the scene seamlessly from wine bar to book-lined study, and from dingy Kilburn rented room to romantic Venetian hotel bedroom.
The excellent cast communicate as much when silent as when speaking, with eye contact suggesting unarticulated emotions. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Emma with restrained poise so that a seemingly causal glance, slight change of tone or letting go of a hand means a great deal. Douglas Henshall's desperately confused Gerry is a man out of his depth used to acting on instinct rather than calculation. Ben Miles's cynical Robert, on the other hand, plays his cards close to his chest, determined not to be hurt again, in a quietly menacing role which, interestingly, Pinter himself played on radio. Read into that what you will!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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