John Simm and Colin Tierney both return to the Crucible after their acclaimed turns in Hamlet back in 2010. They are joined by another familiar face in the shape of Ruth Gemmell, to form a glittering cast for Nick Bagnall’s staging of one of Nobel Prize-winner, Harold Pinter’s most celebrated works: Betrayal.
To say the set of Betrayal is impressive would be a huge understatement. The revolving glass stage is beautifully lit and employed exquisitely throughout the performance. Indeed, the ingenious use of lighting, shadows and reflections is stunning; the remnants of the affair trapped beneath the glass, as the stage revolves slowly to mark the passing of time. Designer Colin Richmond has produced possibly the most impressive staging I’ve ever seen at the Crucible.
The play opens in a pub during 1977 where Jerry (Simm) and Emma (Gemmell) are meeting for the first time in a several years. We soon discover that, despite them both being married, they had an affair for seven years. Emma reveals that her husband, and Jerry’s best, friend Robert (Tierney) has admitted his infidelity, and in turn, she has confessed their entanglement. Betrayal then proceeds to charts the course of their relationship back to the source.
Based on Pinter’s seven year clandestine extramarital affair with Joan Bakewell, Betrayal is a very thoughtful, tense and unsettling piece of work, which contains many moments of dark comedy and light relief. The brilliantly written script is superbly delivered by the three stars whilst director Nick Bagnall is not scared to leave in long silences which only add to the tension and air of foreboding. The scenes between Emma and Robert all seem to have a dangerous undertones and a promise of malice. As we regress through Jerry and Emma’s relationship, it becomes clear that they are both really seeking something quite different from the arrangement.
Betrayal is easily one of the best productions I’ve seen in the last few years; the design is mesmerising, the script is subtle yet ingenious, and the acting is pitch-perfect. I cannot recommend it too highly.