Theatre / Reviews

Review: Betrayal, Theatre Royal Bath

By gill kirk, Wednesday Oct 21, 2020

Look – a theatre review. Of a show. In a theatre. Now – amidst all this. So, a big congratulations to Theatre Royal Bath. This is no mean feat.

And it is good.

I can’t help but think that Mr Pinter would have relished his Betrayal being TRB’s mid-pandemic season-opener. The play is a simple piece of mastery, working backwards and forwards simultaneously, delighting us with that mathematical tickle you get from unfurling a riddle. Conscious and unconscious contradictions abound – a little like the act of theatre-going in October 2020. And – as I said – it is good.

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Edward Bennett, Christopher Bianchi and Joseph Millson in Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’ at Theatre Royal Bath. All pics: Nobby Clark

So what does director Jonathan Church offer? First up, a superb set on a rotating stage from designer Alex Eales. Combined with Laura Hunt’s costume and Will Portch-Burgess’s wardrobe work, you can almost smell ‘70s liberal London. Jon Nicholls’s sound and music is at times an absolute glory (those waves!).

Both he and Church are slightly disadvantaged by the decision to mark Pinter’s sometimes very short scenes with clear scene breaks (lights down, stage rotates, music plays), but it does mean that we get to enjoy the mechanistic flavour of the writing as well as of theatre. And my last note on the technical magic is that Joshua Carr’s lighting does what great lighting always does – it makes you forget it’s there. It is, therefore, just perfect.

“Joseph Millson straddles the layers of Robert’s own deceit, as well as an ongoing and blithe betrayal by those he loves most”

And what about the cast? It’s great casting (congrats to Ginny Schiller for that). Nancy Carroll is an excellent Emma: self-contained, always thinking three steps ahead, flicking at Pinter’s high-wire, serving herself as she watches how well the others keep balance.

Edward Bennett’s Jerry is her lover. He shows us a man who betrays his best friend (and wife) with incredible self-indulgence and lack of self-awareness. This Jerry is  gorgeously feasible: ‘surface-likeable’ and childishly selfish.

Nancy Carroll as Emma (seen here with Edward Bennett as Jerry): “self-contained, always thinking three steps ahead, flicking at Pinter’s high-wire”

Joseph Millson plays cuckolded (and cheating) Robert, Emma’s husband. Jerry was his best friend and even his best man. He is utterly watchable, as Millson straddles the layers of Robert’s own deceit (confessed – but is it true?) as well as an ongoing and blithe betrayal by those he loves most.

They’re supported by Christopher Bianchi as an excellent Italian waiter and – with understandable contingency planning – three understudies: Toby Webster (Jerry), Beth Eyre (Emma), Owen Oldroyd (Robert).

In short, I would see this production again in a heartbeat. If you’re concerned about seeing it in a pandemic, it’s only fair to point out that TRB has superb procedures and you can find out more (with an excellent walk-through video about your visit) on their website. Without a doubt, this was safer than any train I’ve used in these times. Thank you to all at the Theatre: admin, production, backstage and front of house. A coup de théâtre, indeed.

Betrayal is at Theatre Royal Bath until October 31. For more info, visit www.theatreroyal.org.uk/event/betrayal

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