London Classic Theatre brings Harold Pinter’s Betrayal on a circuit around the UK and Ireland. Beginning in Derby and ending in Didcot, The Everyman in Cork marks the half way point on the company’s autumn/winter tour. A touring company since 2000, London Classic Theatre is spearheaded by artistic director Michael Cabot who having mounted a number of Pinter’s plays in the past, undertakes Betrayal with experience.
Noble Laureate, Harold Pinter’s play was first performed at The National Theatre, London in 1978 and since its publication has arguably become his most recognised work. In examining the difference between men and women, an affair unfurls in Pinter’s retrospective Betrayal. Conceived nine years earlier the affair rewinds from its conclusion and circulates the life of Emma, Robert and Jerry, all locked in a triad of treachery; all three ambitious, all three successful, all three masters of betrayal.
Gallery owner Emma, married to publisher Robert, leads a double life with Robert’s best friend and literary agent Jerry. Prideful of their dishonesty and absorbed by themselves and the affluence of London in the late 60’s and 70’s, love is a trivial emotion which ranks second to the characters preoccupation with lust, seduction, vanity and temptation.
Although Betrayal details a seven year affair between Emma and Jerry, we learn that Robert also engaged in illicit infidelity throughout his marriage to Emma while Jerry’s wife Judith, though unseen, is also suspected of duplicity. We see all of the characters become tangled in deceit and Bek Palmer’s set represents the crumbling shell that remains. As the characters re-enter the wreckage in Cabot’s production, they breathe life back into the decaying walls and floors and we can imagine both the characters and their surroundings in the splendour they once emanated; an intelligent and inventive design from Palmer who deeply engages with Pinter’s theme.
But unfortunately Pinter’s message is whitewashed by Cabot’s production which lacked fluidity. The performance became quite mundane as the characters jolted through the years with unconvincing chemistry. I have no doubt that Cabot set out to create a derelict wasteland to simulate the debris of almost a decade of betrayal; however the over enunciated performances from the cast left a gaping void in this overall muted production. Nonetheless, Max Wilson as the multifaceted waiter delivers a surprising performance, with a particularity good Italian accent. Comfortable and confident on stage Wilson bridges the nine scenes which steer us across two cities and nine evocative years.
Betrayal lingers at the final curtain. Culminating at a moment of joy, Emma and Jerry’s passionate embrace is eclipsed by the stifling knowledge of what is to come. An acrimonious ending; Betrayal is Pinter in all his glory!