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The pleasure of this Betrayal is immense

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 poignant.

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 a betrayal.

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.

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