Jamie Lloyd’s production of Betrayal starring Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox has opened to rapturous applause at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London.
Following a brilliant season of Pinter’s short plays, Lloyd tops it off with Pinter’s full-length study of the complex mathematics of betrayal.
Inspired by Harold Pinter’s affair with TV presenter Joan Bakewell, Betrayal charts a compelling seven-year romance, thrillingly captured in reverse chronological order.
Betrayal is currently booking until 1 June 2019 at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London.
Read our round-up of reviews:
Evening Standard ★★★★
“It’s Tom Hiddleston’s poise and sensitivity that impress the most. There’s a brilliant scene that demonstrates his usually under-exploited flair for comedy: toying with Jerry over lunch in an Italian restaurant, he humiliates the feckless waiter, attacks his prosciutto as though fighting a duel, and gulps white wine like a bandit. Yet he’s also genuinely moving, and when he weeps his eyes and cheeks glisten with tears. ”
“Everything in Jamie Lloyd’s minimalist staging feels precisely calibrated. Whenever two of the characters are conversing, the third lingers in the background. Silences are extended, so that we concentrate on the eloquence of gestures and facial expressions. The result is a sense of Robert, Emma and Jerry as a trio engaged in a haunting dance, and at times it’s as if the three of them have merged into one.”
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard
The Independent ★★★★★
“Crowning his superlative six-month Pinter season, Jamie Lloyd directs an exceptionally thoughtful and searching revival of this time-reverse play. [Hiddleston’s] range is beginning to look pretty limitless; [he] excels in a brilliant performance as Robert”
Paul Taylor, The Independent
Time Out ★★★★★
“the triumph here belongs to director Jamie Lloyd. Directing Betrayal as the culmination of his Pinter at the Pinter season of all of the late playwright’s one act plays, there have to be very few people alive – or indeed dead – who understand Pinter in the way Lloyd does, and it shows here.”
“All three actors are great, especially Hiddleston’s brightly brittle Robert and Ashton’s Emma, who always seems to be presenting a bright facade and a more painful truth under that facade.”
“But it’s Lloyd’s take that burns into the mind. It feel like after absorbing countless plays by Pinter about queasy power plays and shifting identities he has reached an understand of ‘Betrayal’ that eludes most directors: that for all the chilliness of the verse and the tragic framing of a story about people who fall out of love and friendship.”
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
The Stage ★★★★
“All three actors are at ease with the rhythms of Pinter’s language and at filling the spaces between their words with meaning, be it loss, longing or recrimination. There’s an ease and chemistry between them as a company.”
“Tom Hiddleston is disconcertingly convincing as the kind of man who casually talks about giving his wife a bashing and who is a total bastard to waiters yet is also capable of being charming and perceptive. He’s a very responsive performer, at his best when interacting with others, and he’s pretty remarkable here; the moment when he stares silently at Emma, sadly, desperately, is wrenching.”
“It all plays out against Soutra Gilmour’s achingly tasteful, minimalist set, an ecru canvas, beautifully lit by Jon Clark, that slowly moves forward, intensifying the claustrophobia. ”
Natasha Tripney, The Stage
The Times [Paywall] ★★★★
“The stripped-back stage leaves the exquisitely cast Zawe Ashton, Charlie Cox and Tom Hiddleston with nowhere to hide”
Ann Treneman, The Times
The Guardian ★★★★
“Of the many versions of the play I’ve seen over the past 40 years this one goes furthest in stripping the action of circumstantial detail.”
“As Emma and Jerry meet for a drink long after their relationship is over, we are aware of the gaunt, unforgiving presence of Tom Hiddleston as Emma’s husband, Robert, in the background. In the Venetian scene where Robert first learns of Emma’s affair, Charlie Cox’s Jerry is both physically and spiritually present.”
“The great gain… is that the focus is on the play’s psychological intricacy and on the acting. Hiddleston, especially, is superb in conveying Robert’s unhealed emotional wounds.
“Ashton also subtly brings out Emma’s capacity to love two men simultaneously. She suggests a free spirit yet one capable of exquisite tenderness: even when forced to confess her adultery, her hand gently traces Robert’s forearm as if softening the blow and reminding him that her passion is still intact. ”
“the revelation of this excellent production is its reminder that betrayal is never-ending and that the one deceived forever haunts the imagination.”
Michael Billington, The Guardian
“The revelation of Betrayal – not quite a short play, but certainly a concise 90-minutes – is to take a play that has become very familiar and make it unfamiliar and strange…Lloyd has scraped off all the surface accretions and with the help of a devastating performance from Tom Hiddleston, uncovers the raw passion and terror beneath.”
“The effect is like being plunged into the inside of someone’s mind – somewhere between nightmare and memory. It’s emphasised by Soutra Gilmour’s neutral set, its marbled walls conjuring trendy living rooms and the streets of Venice with a minimal and stylised effort. Jon Clark’s lighting is similarly both realistic and symbolic, full of shadows and sudden shafts of sun.”
“Charlie Cox rises brilliantly to the challenge of sitting absolutely still and speaking volumes while saying not a word…But it is the casting of Hiddleston in the traditionally less showy part of Robert that is the revelation… It is Betrayal as I’ve never seen it before, and like this entire season, it bathes Pinter in a brilliant new light.”
Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage
“in common with all his best work – including, yes, that glinting study in volatile vengefulness, the maverick Marvel baddie Loki – he displays a hypnotic sensitivity. Such is his physical and vocal control, that no matter how light the look or line, or indeed how loaded, everything registers. I had worried that the actor, 38, might come across as too well-spoken, too restrained but he doesn’t merely suggest the noxious, torturing impact of that title word, Betrayal, he seems to carry it in his blood-stream.”
“Striking, ardent, confident, Ashton’s Emma could do with more enigma and less underlined brittleness but catches the character’s ache and discontent well, while Cox acquits himself superbly as the down to earth best-mate who behaves like a rotter, with cat that got the cream smiles and an awful sheepishness as it dawns on him that the others have played him for a fool.”
Dominic Cavendish, Telegraph
The i ★★★★
“Pinter’s masterful study in intimate deception then steps backs repeatedly, showing us the arc of a love affair in reverse – and throughout offers such rug pulls, as well as unnerving hindsight. The whole thing ripples and bulges with subtext: things known but unacknowledged, things unsaid yet heard loud and clear. You wince as you watch.
“Lloyd has consummate control of each beat, each micro betrayal, how every truth or lie slices deep or shallow…Whichever two characters are having their terse, tense interactions, the third lurks or looms.”
The downside is that it’s chilly. The three characters throw devastatingly accurate darts, know exactly how to pierce and wound each other, but what you don’t get a lot of is why they wanted to get close enough to hurt each other in the first place; you feel their pain, less so their love…But the performances are superb. ”
Holly Williams, The i
Average rating score for this production:
Date: 14 March 2019
Written by: Mark Wills
Tags: Betrayal, Charlie Cox, review round-up, Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton