Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Secrets, Lies and Pinter's Superb Sound of Silence

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Secrets, Lies and Pinter's Superb Sound of Silence

Article excerpt


Betrayal Donmar

HAROLD PINTER casts a rare, revealing eye on adultery and its constant companion, mendacity, in his indelibly fine account of a triangular love affair in lateSeventies literary London.

The revelation of Roger Michell's passionately acted production, in which Toby Stephens and Sam West give sensational performances, is that adultery and marital breakdown no longer seems to be Pinter's central interest.

At Betrayal's 1978 premiere everyone was fascinated by the way Pinter unfolds his account of a furtive, nineyear affair in reverse chronology, beginning after its end and tracking back to its beginnings when Stephens's Jerry first kisses Emma (Dervla Kirwan), wife of his best friend, West's Robert.

In Michell's production, with William Dudley's white muslin drapes swirling artily around the stage, Pinter's flashbacks allow something more than secret sexual attachment to loom large.

In the last scene, a sexy prelude to the affair about which the audience knows plenty, Robert virtually catches his wife in the enthusiastic arms of Jerry.

West reacts to the incident with inscrutable calm and reserve, as if nothing has happened. He accepts the arm that the effortlessly deceitful Jerry places around his shoulder as if nothing had happened.

He then briskly leaves them and the room. His behaviour conveys the impression he has guessed what has happened but will say nothing.

I now recognise Robert's silence as the predominant, characteristic sound of a play in which all three characters go in for deception, concealment and secrecy.

We witness characteristic Anglo- Saxon social behaviour: refusal to face or discuss intimate, painful things; preference for neutral politesse and vacuous exchange of banalities; diplomatically turning a blind eye. So some years into her affair Emma admits the fact to her husband, but never tells Jerry of her admission. …

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