‘We hope you enjoy tonight’s performance of ‘Betrayal’’ was, I hope, an amusing syntactical introduction to what was a thoroughly watchable piece of theatre. The play depicts an affair between Emma (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Jerry (Douglas Henshall), and the betrayed, we assume, is Emma’s husband Robert (Ben Miles). Jerry and Robert are old friends from university and partners in a publishing house, and Robert has known about the affair for five years. The events of their lives are revealed to us slowly, not by going forward in time, but rather backwards until we see the roots of the affair.
I cannot comment on the acting as it was flawless, each character thoroughly developed by all actors. The anti-clockwise nature of the play provided buckets of irony, and with the isolation of the players it appeared that we as an audience had been invited to watch a breakdown voyeuristically, as if it were some bizarre, middle-class reality television programme. In terms of staging, the set was simple and scene changes flowed seamlessly. The year of each incident was shone on a transparent gauze which seemed to add an extra layer to the fourth-wall, isolating the characters from the audience even further.
It was only afterwards that I realised that Emma’s character subtly rejuvenated as the play went on, and little details like that defined Ian Rickson’s thorough interpretation. There was a lot of booze on stage, making me think of the ‘Withnail and I’ drinking game and, although it might have added an element of farce to the performance, perhaps I would like to have seen a more accurate result of consuming two bottles of wine over lunch.
The play lasted only an hour and a half, but I would say that there was nothing that could be added or taken away from the premise – each scene by Harold Pinter is perfectly crafted and carefully balanced. Perhaps if a lesser person had written it, what we would be watching might have simply been another episode of another soap opera, but instead we are given a clever insight into love and deception.