Venue: York Theatre Royal
York Theatre Royal has taken on Harold Pinter’s Betrayal for October. Essential to this tale of human interest and intrigue, based on Pinter’s own affair with Joan Bakewell, chemistry is essential. Sadly, at times this chemistry was lacking.
The opening scene was stilted. It takes a comfortable and confident cast to take on Pinter’s (in)famous pauses, and an anxious scene was made all the more awkward by the cast’s lack of pace. One didn’t feel as though the audience was privy to two former lovers and old friends meeting up, but instead had them watching two actors wade through a stagnant pond of dialogue.
Mark Hesketh didn’t quite capture the essence of Jerry, the romancer of his best friends wife. He failed to colour Pinter’s wry lines with the humour they deserved, which left some scenes flat. Based on his a performance in the first half, I worried about Jerry’s famous declaration of love in the final scene. Although not carrying it off with the bravado expected of his character, Hesketh did go some way to redeeming himself in the final scene- for the first time emoting to such an extent that one could believe his character was in fact in love with his mistress.
Hesketh failed to match the exuberance of Amanda Ryan’s Emma. Although the stifled opening scene didn’t bode well. Mason Phillips managed to capture the repressed and controlled manner of Oxbridge educated Robert, injecting some much needed pace.
The production was cleverly staged, with director Juliet Forster opting of a diagonal stage, which allowed the audience to be immersed in the domestic setting of the play. However, at times there was a lack of awareness of body positioning which closed the audience off. The projection of old family photos during scene changes was a brilliant touch, consolidating the established relationship between characters and subtly reaffirming their history as old friends. Despite the timelessness of the storyline, it was interesting that the directors chose to stick with the original era of the late sixties and early seventies.
Helped by Pinter’s first-class script, it was easy to forget that this is a play consisting of only three characters. All in all, this production made a solid attempt at a difficult play, although nothing about it was strikingly unique.