‘Betrayal’ is one of the late Harold Pinter’s more well-known works (from 1978), and it also clocks in at a snip 90 minutes, but it’s 90 minutes that’s full of drama, tension, and in this new stage version, very well acted.
In a play that goes backward and forward in time but is never confusing, Hiddleston plays Robert, a successful book publisher who is married to the beautiful Emma (Zawe Ashton, from television’s ‘Fresh Meat’, and who more than holds her own on stage). Emma, you see, has been having, for several years, an affair with Jerry (a very good and very good looking and sexy Charlie Cox – best known for television’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’ and ‘Daredevil’), who also happens to be Roberts’ best friend. But there is more to it than this. Jerry and Emma have had a flat for their not so secret trysts for years, and Robert has known, because Emma told him, about the affair. Meanwhile, Jerry also has a wife and child. But as the plot goes back three years, to a time when Emma and Robert were very happy, to the beginning of the play when Emma announces to Jerry that her and Robert are splitting up, its one betrayal after another in a show that cleverly uses a chronology to tell the story in reverse. ‘Betrayal’ is also about a clandestine love affair, and lies told, in a show portrayed on stage by actors who are at the top of their game. And the three main cast members are always on stage, with one hovering in the background creating an eavesdropping like mood.
Hiddleston displays a very vulnerable side of him as the spurned husband who seems to be the innocent one amongst all the betrayal. And as Robert Hiddleston, near the end of the show which is actually near the end of the middle of the show, breaks down as he learns from Emma about the affair. It’s powerful stuff by a master of the stage (Hiddleston was also very superb in 2013’s ‘Coriolanus’). Ashton is good as the woman at the centre of two men who really really want her, while Cox brings a lure of sex appeal and confidence where we can see why Robert keeps him as his best friend and why Emma is having an affair with him even though she has her own family. All in all, ‘Betrayal,’ with a set that is stripped to the bone, is dramatic and tense theatre at its best.
Review by Tim Baros