Betrayal in the Donmar Warehouse, runs until July 21. Director Roger Michell. Cast includes Toby Stephens, Dervla Kirwan, Samuel West.
I loved Roger Michell’s last film, Venus, based on a screenplay by Hanif Kureishi, so seeing his production of Harold Pinter’s seminal play on adultery and passion turned cold was high on my agenda. After queuing for a few hours I indeed got a return for one of the previews. The play is very suitable for the intimate space of the Donmar, telling the story of a seven year long affair between a woman and her husband’s best friend – but in reverse order, from the awkward last meeting to the first passionate encounter.
The set design by William Dudley is beautiful and economic, with several layers of white cloth acting as moveable curtains and screens on which the year dates of the scenes are projected – flimsy, fleeting things like the relationships that are described. Pinter’s play is still as fresh as a daisy after 30 years but somehow this production cannot quite fulfill its potential – despite Michell’s sure hand as a director. Samuel West, Dervla Kirwan and Toby Stephens all give decent performances but their acting stays slightly flat and misses that extra kind of sparkle that I expected. I am always slightly disappointed when I see Toby Stephens act, especially when I have read excellent reviews on his performance. He is a dynamic actor but subtle he ain’t: large brushstrokes are more his style instead of fine nuances . I remember seeing him as Hamlet in 2004 and being bored with his register from A to B, thinking “he has really nice hair” which is not the thing you should think about when you watch the play! Dervla Kirwan is lovely and Simon West skilfully goes through a range of emotion, but somehow the magnetic field between the three characters is a bit low. Decent but overhyped.