2nd June, 2012
I didn’t see the much acclaimed 2011 West End production (starring Kristin Scott Thomas) of Harold Pinter’s most famous memory play, but after seeing Nick Bagnall’s revival I can’t imagine the play being produced in such a way that would be more effective than this. Firstly, the staging has a high impact: the Crucible’s thrust stage is turned into a glass round turntable, inspired by David Hockney’s Life on a Glass Table. The play’s mainly reverse chronology is reflected in the stage revolving anti-clockwise and then clockwise when time moves forward, being aided by projections showing the setting of each scene. Not only is this pleasing to watch but it also outlines the importance of how things change with time in a simple way and without appearing at all gimmicky.
The audience can see underneath the transparent stage to see masses of love letters scattered about, suggesting that the act of betrayal that lies in Robert and Emma’s marriage is a mess as well as acting as a reminder of what has been done. However what are not transparent are the lives of Emma and Robert, the latter of whom has been cuckolded by his best friend Jerry. Ruth Gemmell, Colin Tierney and John Simm all give exceptional performances in this intense three-hander, drawing out moments of humour, passion and emotion from the script. Although I know little about Pinter’s work, I could tell that the most was made of the Pinter Pause, with Bagnall allowing for some near-excruciatingly long pauses, this heightening the intensity of many scenes.
I concur with other critics when some of them wanted more complexity in the three main characters although all three portrayed well-rounded, believable performances. Furthermore, Thomas Tinker provided nice support as the waiter ensuring swift scene changes throughout.
Overall, Bagnall’s production had a moody atmosphere and proved for a powerful afternoon in the theatre.
Betrayal ran at the Crucible (part of Sheffield Theatres) from 17th May until 9th June, 2012.