DISCLAIMER: This review is of a preview performance. Another atypical Pinter but this time in a good way, and one of his most popular plays - it's only four years since Betrayal was revived a few blocks away at the Donmar. Emma (Kristin Scott Thomas) is cheating on husband Robert (Ben Miles) with his best friend Jerry (Douglas Henshall.) So on one level the betrayal of the title is straightforward, but on another everyone in the play feels, rightly or wrongly, betrayed in some way by everyone else. Pinter opens the play in 1977, two years after the seven-year affair has ended, and the point at which Emma and Robert's marriage has finally collapsed. Telling the story in reverse so it ends with the fateful night in 1968 when Jerry first makes a drunken pass at his friend's wife, the audience gets 20/20 hindsight. As with so much Pinter, what's left unspoken tends to be more important than what's said, but in this case we know exactly what's being held back.
Ian Rickson's production is very strong and seems a lot shorter than its 90 minutes, the reverse passage of time clearly and moodily done. In many ways Miles has the meatiest role despite its being the least showy but all three actors are good, although I have slight reservations about Henshall, I'm not sure his Jerry is charismatic enough to inspire this whole tangled web. It's not enough to derail things though and the performance didn't feel like a preview - although the crew could maybe work on making the behind-the-scenes set changes a bit quieter. Christopher, a big Pinter fan, hadn't seen this play before but was very impressed by it, and was struck by designer Jeremy Herbert's dramatic use of red and white. Personally I thought this production had the edge over the last one I saw, despite the trademark pauses it still flies by.
Betrayal by Harold Pinter is booking until the 20th of August at the Comedy Theatre.