top of page

Barb and I saw *Betrayal* on Broadway on 10/29/19.  It's a play from 1978 by Harold Pinter.  It's rather concrete for Pinter, his stuff can be pretty abstract - - bristling with drama, but abstract.  This is the second time I'd seen it on Broadway: I saw the 2013 production with Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Rafe Spall, directed by Mike Nichols.  This production was a transfer from London, with Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton, and Charlie Cox, directed by Jamie Lloyd.  I was there because I love the play - - Barb was there because she loves Tom Hiddleston!


It's a three-character play about a married couple and the man's best friend, who has an affair with the wife.  The chronology of the play is one of the most remarkable aspects of it - - there are nine scenes and they more or less happen in reverse chronology.  Here's a list of the scenes in the play, and how they happen in the chronology of the story:


Scene 1: 8

Scene 2: 9

Scene 3: 7

Scene 4: 6

Scene 5: 3

Scene 6: 4

Scene 7: 5

Scene 8: 2

Scene 9: 1


It's fascinating to see the story unfold like that.  Thankfully this production had titles projected onto the stage when the timeline moved back, so you knew right away when the scene was taking place.


The general tone was quiet and intense, which highlighted the sadness and loneliness of the characters.  Barb and I exchanged many texts the night after the show, trying to wrap our brains around who these people were, what they were doing, what they really wanted.  It's a wonderfully complex play.


All three actors were very strong in both productions, they all gave fantastic performances.  I preferred this production to the 2013 production because it was more pared down and seemed to put the play center stage.  The Mike Nichols production was (in comparison) rather slick and smooth.  The scene changes were the star of the show!  Director Jamie Lloyd gave us a more or less bare stage in this production and used two turntables in the most extraordinary way.  They moved very slowly, I had never seen a turntable move so slowly.  At one point the inner turntable was moving in the opposite direction of the outer turntable, so the characters were drawn together and pulled apart over the course of the scene.


That scene had the most powerful moment of the production.  The married couple's daughter was referenced a few times in the dialogue, and a little girl came onstage in this second-to-last scene and sat in her father's lap.  The scene was between the wife and the friend/lover, with the husband and his daughter sitting in a chair, slowly (very slowly) revolving around the stage.  I'll let Barb take over to describe what happened (FYI in her description, Emma is the wife, Jerry is the friend/lover, and Robert is the husband):


"In the scene with Emma and Jerry right after the little girl was brought on stage there was a line where Emma asks Jerry if he thought about changing his life (eluding to the idea of each of them leaving their spouse and being together); at that moment, the outer circle brought Robert right in front of Jerry and Robert’s head came up (previously resting against the top of the little girls head) and he 'looked' Jerry directly in the eye.  Jerry’s response to Emma’s question was 'No.'


"This plays into the use of the revolving circles to illustrate the presence of the 'absent' character in the characters mind.  I found that glance so incredibly profound and made me realize how much I may have missed up to that point.  The realization of the amount of nuanced detail actually makes me want to see it again."


Lloyd did something else that greatly added to the drama - - most of the scenes are for two of the three characters, I think there are only two scenes that feature all three.  But Lloyd usually (always?) had the absent third person onstage, usually in the back, observing, so you had the sense that he or she was still present in the minds of the other two characters.  This added a great deal to the show.  One scene between the wife and the friend/lover had the husband sitting next to the friend/lover, even though he's not actually in the scene, it was chilling.


Lloyd had a strong point of view for the show and the put it on the stage in a meaningful way that did not go against the text.  He wasn't showing that he was smarter than Pinter or knew the play better than he did - - he used his imagination to find something new and fresh and used it to strengthen the drama and emotional impact.

bottom of page