This seems like perfect timing for another outing of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, on the week Joan Bakewell picked up her BAFTA fellowship award. For those who don’t know, this play is semi-autobiographical and based on the torrid, and quite lengthy, love affair between broadcaster Joan Bakewell and playwright Harold Pinter.
The acting really was sensational and raises the bar for Fringe theatre.
The chemistry on stage between the three characters, which include 'Emma’s' husband Richard, was immediate and sustained throughout. In typical Pinter fashion, the play jumped back and forward through time, but every detail expressed in each scene was relevant to another and cropped up throughout the muddled chronology.
An absolute highlight was Richard’s confronting of Emma in Venice. Sophie Dearlove captured such a heavily intense moment in a series of facial expressions that went from fear to guilt to apologetic in such a way that she barely even needed to speak. Duncan Henderson, playing Richard, was excruciating to watch as he danced around the knowing and not revealing of the affair to both Emma and Jerry in a series of awkward encounters. Toying with his prey, Richard came across as the villain in a love triangle where he was very much the victim and Duncan Henderson played this perfectly. Richard’s smarmy composure leaves you cheering for the lovers, quite possibly written purposely for Pinter to save face and although you know it’s doomed from the beginning there is a sadness to it as it unravels on the stage.
The intensity of the play was punctuated with lighter moments referencing Richard and Jerry’s lagging squash games and a particularly amusing waiter in an Italian restaurant. Neil James as Jerry, was thoroughly enjoyable to watch and his relationship with Emma was absolutely convincing. Knowing the play however, he could have taken a slightly stronger lead in developing the affair but without this prior knowledge and taking it at face value, it was as resounding as it was absolutely gripping to watch.
To murder a Harold Pinter play would be an absolute travesty and what Pretty Villain Productions have taken to the stage is far from it. The casting was brilliant and the uncomplicated set ensured that our full focus was on the dialogue. The flickering dates and locations on the screen simplified the context as it flittered around from past to present and back again. The acting really was sensational and raises the bar for Fringe theatre.