WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHERE? Harold Pinter Theatre RUNTIME: 90 minutes (no interval)
WHEN? 8/3, opens 13/3, runs to 1/6/19 STOP PRESS: now extended to 8/6
A female voice sings a slowed-down and stripped back version of, we think, Depeche Mode’s Enjoy The Silence at several moments during this methodical revival and it’s the best in-joke of an understated evening.
- Read on for reasons including how the audience is queuing around the block to see Tom Hiddleston at the stage door
Author Harold Pinter is renowned for the elongated dramatic pauses in his work adding to its comedy of menace and we’ve enjoyed rather a lot of them during the seven-strong Pinter at the Pinter season at this venue which shares his name.
Betrayal was the author’s 7th full-length play, written in 1978 and was inspired by Pinter’s affair with BBC presenter Joan Bakewell.
It is the story of Robert (Hiddleston, predominantly buttoned up and inscrutable) and how he is betrayed by his best friend (Charlie Cox, extremely likeable) and his wife (Zawe Ashton, always reliable and the pick of the bunch here).
It’s told backwards – so the action begins with Cox and Ashton raking over the coals of their 7-year affair which is now over. We meet them and Hiddleston at crucial points in the course of the affair, moving backwards to the point where it began.
The play considers different betrayals between the trio as we learn that Ashton lies to Cox about when she confessed to Hiddleston’s Robert and that he too has been unfaithful.
It’s 90 minutes without interval and the pace is languid, performed well and full of the stylistic elements that Pinter lovers will enjoy. We’re in row 8 and the most effective emotional moment occurs when the previously stiff Hiddleston’s eyes glisten with tears we can see clearly. It’s perhaps a betrayal of how he really feels without ever otherwise letting on.
We’ve marvelled previously at the inventive nature of director Jamie Lloyd’s previous work (one featuring Ashton memorably) and there’s little here that’s visually as arresting.
We loved the Pinter that preceded this starring Danny Dyer and Martin Freeman but this doesn’t quite hit those heights and ends the Pinter at the Pinter season with more of a fizzle than a bang.
That seems to matter little however to the predominantly female line outside the theatre stage door at the end of the show stretching far into the night waiting to greet Night Manager star Hiddleston at curtain down.