It has become something of a rarity to have a opportunity locally to enjoy any of Pinter’s plays, which, given his status as a Nobel Prize winner, seems a sad omission.
Pinter has a reputation for being complex and obscure, but apart from the events of the play being in reverse order, this is not the case with ‘Betrayal’ which takes us through the nine years of an affair from youthful exuberance to experienced and disillusioned middle age. The piece is famously autobiographical in that it tells of the long-term affair of Pinter himself with Joan Bakewell.
In the first few minutes of the play David Crossfield (aka Pinter himself) and Libby McKay get an opportunity to play a few of Pinter’s famous pauses. Not here an embarrassing hiatus, but moments which gather weight and purpose. We know we are safely in the hands of skilful actors. The pair are at the centre of this piece and we share their compulsive attraction, desperate duplicity and ultimate exposure. Here we have two powerful performances which make for an engrossing and absorbing evening.
The cuckolded husband is no less sensitively played by Richard Ely with a growing sense of unease as his suspicions develop. We get moments of strange ‘male bonding’ between the two men who are long-term friends. Moments laced with an undeclared subtext of awareness of the events outside that friendship.
The Loft studio takes a maximum of about fifty people and was full, but unfortunately, unless you were sitting in the front, this made for problems in following the action. Heads were swivelling as audience members tried to see past the heads of those in front. The cost here was a loss of some of the intimacy that studio theatre promises. Surely this might have been a play which could have been presented in a less conventional proscenium arch style.
The director, Sue Moore, must be congratulated for offering us an opportunity to enjoy one of our finest dramatists. Her control of the pace and rhythm of the play made for an evening well spent.