Being an avid fan of Pinter for quite some time, I am quite ashamed to say that this was my first experience of a performance of one of his pieces. Pinter brings much to the table in Betrayal; an affair close to home, the suppressed husband and the power-playing language that sets this play apart.
Emma is married to Robert, but pursues a long affair with his best man, Jerry. And this is most definitely an affair to remember. Filled with passion and lust, it transcends the strained love between Emma and Robert, and takes Emma on the path of a betrayal of both the heart and her character.
What shines in this adaptation is the connection between Jerry and Robert, played by Mark Hesketh and Mason Phillips respectively. Fuelled by the urgency of power, both personal and in the business world, the two actors absorb the language with a naturalism needed to perform Pinter; the absurdity of his words are spoken of in casual conversation, with an air of ease as to not disillusion the audience.
Yet it is the silences of this play which challenged me. The ‘Pinter pause’ has often proved a challenge for actors, some using the ‘three second rule’ to tackle it, others attempting to guess at the nature of each length of silence. At times, the presentation of these pauses is quite uncomfortable; their length doesn’t quite sit right, and the direction feels quite forced. However, when they are done right, they are done right. Amanda Ryan as Emma particularly handles the pauses well, taking ownership of the silence, letting her dominant position be well known.
I am curious to discover more adaptations of Pinter after watching Betrayal. A difficult piece to stage, it is unlikely to be ever given five stars because of the way Pinter allows us to modify his plays in so many different ways; there is no set judgement on which to give an opinion on. Betrayal on the whole provides us with a great story, one which we can look at from a contemporary stance and judge whether it to be relevant in the modern age or not.
Betrayal plays at the York Theatre Royal until Saturday 18 October.