Review by David Munro
FIRST produced in 1978 this revival of Harold Pinter's Betrayal
shows no sign of age.
It revolves around three characters, Robert (Hugo Speer), a publisher,
Emma, his wife (Janie Dee), and her lover, a literary agent, Jerry
(Aden Gillett), and is as much a study in duplicity as betrayal.
Emma hides from Jerry the fact that she has told her husband
of her affair, Robert hides from Jerry his knowledge of it and
Jerry hides from Robert his part in the triangle.
The play opens when, some years after the affair has ended, the
marriage between Emma and Jerry has broken down and Emma has arranged
a meeting with Jerry to discuss it and their past relationship.
It then proceeds backward to the time when the affair commenced
in a sequence of vignettes, each of which displays another facet
of the characters and their inter-relationships.
In his diary of the original production, reproduced in the programme,
Peter Hall, the director, suggests that the marriage is kept going
by the affair and the friendship between the two men and it only
ends when the betrayals cease.
That may be so, but the present production seems to indicate
that Robert had a perverse pleasure in deceiving Jerry into believing
that their friendship was intact, and that once Jerry knew he
knew, the friendship too was finished.
It is a play that every member of the audience will form his
or her own view about, and will doubtless enjoy the subsequent
arguments it engenders as to its meaning and subtleties.
This pleasure will be enhanced if they attend the current production,
where they will see three performances, which, I suggest, surpass
any other to be seen in the West End today.
Janie Dee gives Emma an underlying dishonesty so that, despite
her outward sweetness and light, well-adjusted exterior, her dishonesty
with both of the men seems plausible, if not natural.
Hugo Speer, as the tortuous Robert, also has an ostensibly nice
character that revels in his chumminess with Jerry, even after
he knows of his relationship with Emma, but at the same time,
he manages to convey that under this bland façade, there
is a tortuous, possibly sadomasochistic mind, without losing credibility
or the audience's sympathy.
Aden Gillett is the perfect foil for these other two performances.
His Jerry is nice and apparently straightforward, unable to see
that by seducing his friend's wife he is doing anything wrong.
When he realises that there is always a loser in this type of
situation and that it is he, his portrayal of the bafflement and
despair that ensues is a masterpiece of underplaying and very
I hope this brief glimpse of what is a most rewarding and interesting
evening in the theatre will persuade you to go and see this excellent
play and its even more excellent production, so you can make your
own mind up as to whether there is pleasure to be gained from
Betrayal by Harold Pinter. Director Peter Hall, Designer John
Gunter, Lighting Peter Mumford, Sound Gregory Clarke. WITH: Janie
Dee, Arden Gillett, Hugo Speer, James Supervia, Emma Swinn and
Benjamin Joiner. Produced by Theatre Royal Bath Productions in
association with Act One Partners at the Duchess Theatre, Catherine
Street, London WC2. Tickets 0870 890 1103.