It takes three to tango, and Jamie Lloyd’s “Betrayal” fully grasps that. Having made it his mission to modernize the best way we stage Harold Pinter’s performs, his stylish, stripped-down staging starring Tom Hiddleston as a cuckolded husband could be his greatest try but. Pared again and performed out on an empty stage, this masterful play turns into not simply an aching account of an extramarital affair that eats away in any respect three individuals concerned, however a glinting meditation on the myriad methods we betray ourselves, and the methods our hearts appear to harden with age.
Pinter’s play picks its approach by means of the wreckage of a wedding, retracing its steps by means of a seven-year affair that runs in reverse. Hiddleston performs Robert, a writer whose spouse Emma (Zawe Ashton) is first seen assessing the top of her affair along with his outdated college mate Jerry (Charlie Cox) — an affair that rewinds, scene by illicit scene, again to their very first tryst. It’s a forensic examination of romantic breakdown.
However Lloyd faucets right into a central tenet of infidelity: the third social gathering is all the time current. By trapping the trio on an empty stage, stripping away any sense of place, Lloyd makes them develop into the background to one another’s affairs. Each encounter — between lovers or rivals, between husband and spouse — exists in relation to the particular person it leaves out. As Emma and Jerry idle away their afternoons of their shabby shag-pad, Hiddleston’s Robert cuts a stern, solitary determine upstage or spins round them, cradling Emma’s daughter in his arms. Cox sits, staring into house, whereas the married couple bickers on vacation in Venice and, when the 2 males meet for a boozy lunch, Emma’s seen elsewhere, misplaced in thought. There’s no shedding sight of the state of affairs. The betrayal is all the time plain to see.
It’s as if these three individuals hold coming between each other, and Soutra Gilmour’s set, with its twin revolves, spins adultery right into a sort of choreography. The love triangle turns circles just like the fingers of a clock, or falls into sync like interlocking clogs. Typically they weave out and in of one another’s paths like a tightening knot. They’re caught, inextricably, in each other’s orbit, sure by some gravitational pull. It’s beautiful, however terrible: a state of affairs and not using a answer that, very steadily, grinds all three of them down.
Whereas Pinter wrote “Betrayal” out of non-public expertise, impressed by his personal extramarital affair, Lloyd’s abstraction elevates its existential edge. Slowing the tempo proper down, stretching silences out with unstated regrets as Depeche Mode’s “Benefit from the Silence” swims mournfully overhead, Lloyd throws deal with passing time in addition to fading love. Because the years roll again, the three characters stay outwardly unchanged — no new haircuts, no cooler, youthful garments. Solely their attitudes appear to shift, and because the play winds backwards, every lightens and brightens in superbly calibrated performances.
Hiddleston brings a bitter spite to Robert, solely cracking his first smile midway by means of. This mournful, bitter man regains the straightforward confidence of his youth, pushing his fingers by means of his hair like a Vidal Sassoon mannequin. As soon as his delight is dented by his spouse’s affair, he breaks down and, shockingly, admits “bashing” her. That explains Ashton’s preliminary aloofness, gaunt and tight-lipped to start out, solely to heat up, stress-free within the arms of Cox’s light, easy-going Jerry. He appears by far her higher possibility and, certainly, if any single betrayal leaps out, it’s Emma’s lack of ability to depart her husband for a brand new life. “Have you ever ever considered altering your life?” she asks him idly, because the revolve makes the 2 males glide previous each other, momentarily locking eyes.
Lloyd’s minimalist strategy can really feel a little bit too like a drama college train, as unarmed actors wring each inch of emotion out of a scene. Sometimes every teeters too far towards the emphatic — Hiddleston’s so aggressive along with his prosciutto starter that you simply’d assume he was stabbing the pig to dying — however principally these are wealthy, finely calibrated efficiency attuned to the agonies of life and the impossibilities of affection. Each quietly radical and devoted to Pinter’s play, Lloyd has revealed “Betrayal” anew.