A/V Room









The biggest Betrayal is by the director to his audience

Review by David Munro

FIRST produced in 1978, this tour of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal is based on the recent revival at The Duchess Theatre.

It revolves around three characters - Robert (David Michaels), a publisher, Emma, his wife (Samantha Janus) and her lover, a literary agent, Jerry (Antony Byrne) - 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 display 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 play 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.

Unfortunately, the current touring cast give no indication of the hidden meaning to the play and, in fact, give very little meaning to their parts or relationships.

In London, it was a taut, exciting evening in the theatre; in Richmond, it is anything but. One got the impression that one was attending the first read through of the play - the lines were delivered flatly and the pauses were held so long that you could have been at a pastiche of a Pinteresque play.

I understand that this was the first night of the tour and it may be that, as it progresses, the actors will become more accustomed to their parts and give the play its proper values; although on last night’s showing, I am inclined to doubt it.

This is the second play produced by Peter Hall that I have seen on tour which failed to match its original production.

I hope it will be the last and that the next tour he sends out will have actors who can equal, if not excel, the skills of the roles originators and not lacklustre imitations as in this one.

After all, tours are the only chance a lot of people get to see the West End’s successes, and they are just as entitled to expect, and get value for their money, as those who buy tickets in Shaftesbury Avenue.

Betrayal by Harold Pinter. Director, Sir Peter Hall; Tour director, Thea Sharrock; Designer, John Gunter; Lighting by Peter Mumford; Sound by Gregory Clarke.
WITH: Samantha Janus; Antony Byrne; David Michaels; John Davitt.
Producer: Theatre Royal Bath Productions, present the Peter Hall Company.
Richmond Theatre, The Little Green, Richmond, Surrey.
Tuesday, May 18 – Saturday, May 22, 2004. Tues – Sat: 7.45pm; Mat: Wed & Sat: 2.30pm.
Box Office: 020 8940 0088.

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