Theatre Review: Betrayal - Tom Hiddleston Gives A Nuanced Performance In One Of Pinter's Best Works

Betrayal, Harold Pinter Theatre ★★★★★

Neil Dowden
By Neil Dowden Last edited 8 months ago

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Theatre Review: Betrayal - Tom Hiddleston Gives A Nuanced Performance In One Of Pinter's Best Works Betrayal, Harold Pinter Theatre 5
Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton, Charlie Cox
Photo Marc Brenner

The Jamie Lloyd Company's epic 'Pinter at the Pinter' season closes with a superb, innovative account of Harold Pinter's 1978 play Betrayal. The most accessible of his works, it revolves around a seven-year adulterous affair, starting in the present and moving backwards — so that we view the various intrigues between the three characters with retrospective knowledge.

Former lovers Emma, an art-gallery owner, and Jerry, a literary agent, meet for the first time for two years. She tells him that she is breaking up with her husband Robert, a book publisher who is also Jerry's best friend and colleague. She also informs Jerry that she has just told Robert about their own past liaison — but when Jerry nervously confronts Robert, Robert shockingly reveals that Emma confessed to the affair while it was still going on some years ago.

Tom Hiddleston
Photo: Marc Brenner

The multiple layers of deception are peeled back in a subtle examination of the psychological damage caused by betrayal of marriage and friendship. Moreover, the shifting, ambivalent relations of this menage à trois are complicated by a homoerotic current between the two men.

Over a taut, unbroken 90 minutes, Lloyd's beautifully nuanced, minimalist production strips down the drama to its bare essentials. All three actors are always on stage even when their characters are not in a scene, so that the third person's presence is felt even in duologues. Two concentric revolves moving in opposite directions suggest inner and outer circles, with characters passing each other closely but apart.

Tom Hiddleston gives a terrific performance to suggest the hurt and anger behind Robert's urbane mask, while Zawe Ashton strongly conveys the sensual Emma's conflicted feelings and Charlie Cox captures Jerry's amiable self-centredness. All three make the most of Pinter's famous pauses, hinting at a subtext of complex emotions beneath the platitudes.

Betrayal, Harold Pinter Theatre, Panton Street SW1Y 4DN, £15-£99.50. Until 1 June.

Last Updated 14 March 2019