Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of Hiddleston and Co in BETRAYAL?
The Jamie Lloyd Company production of Harold Pinter's Betrayal runs at the Harold Pinter Theatre for a strictly limited season ending on 1 June. Directed by Jamie Lloyd, the production stars Golden Globe, Olivier and Evening Standard Award winner Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox.
With poetic precision, rich humour and an extraordinary emotional force, Betrayal charts a compelling seven-year romance, thrillingly captured in reverse chronological order.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Cindy Marcolina, BroadwayWorld: The actors - quite literally - cast shadows, the structure of their relationships reflected on the back wall. The nudity of the stage is dressed with their internal turmoil and ultimate betrayal as the director employs a dark and sexy attitude that heightens Pinter's homoerotic subtext - mainly conveyed through Hiddleston's delivery. He plays with space and distance to compress and decompress the energy through staging, which results in a sometimes airy, sometime asphyxiating breath of emotion.
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: It's Hiddleston's poise and sensitivity that impress the most. There's a brilliant scene that demonstrates his usually under-exploited flair for comedy: toying with Jerry over lunch in an Italian restaurant, he humiliates the feckless waiter, attacks his prosciutto as though fighting a duel, and gulps white wine like a bandit. Yet he's also genuinely moving, and when he weeps his eyes and cheeks glisten with tears.
Michael Billington, The Guardian: Hiddleston, especially, is superb in conveying Robert's unhealed emotional wounds. His initial mocking superiority to Jerry is explained by the fact he has long been aware of his best friend's covert betrayal. In the Venetian scene, when he learns that Emma's affair has been going on for five years, he has the poleaxed stare of a man whose world has fallen apart. But there is a savage humour to the restaurant scene where Hiddleston stabs at a melon as if displacing his anger with Jerry.
Natasha Tripney, The Stage: Harold Pinter's Betrayal is a play that's easier to admire than to love. Structurally, it's masterful, charting the emotional fallout from a seven-year extramarital affair in reverse chronological order, starting at the bitter end and rewinding to the first, snatched kiss. It's also, essentially, a study of affluent people wounding each other. Fortunately, Jamie Lloyd knows exactly what he's doing when it comes to Pinter - this is very good indeed.
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph: Tom Hiddleston is back on stage, bringing Jamie Lloyd's six-month all-hands-on-deck salute to Harold Pinter at the West End theatre that bears his name to an immensely satisfying climax - one which not only re-confirms Betrayal as a modern masterpiece, built to last, but reassures us that Hiddleston has got the theatrical acting chops to head up there among the greats.
Marianka Swain, The Arts Desk: Hiddleston has the great actor's gift of stillness; when Robert learns of the affair, he doesn't rage, but tears glitter in his eyes and gradually spill down his cheeks, unchecked vulnerability springing forth from this coolly controlled man. It's extraordinary to witness.
Demetrios Matheou, The Hollywood Reporter: With a young, absurdly attractive cast led by Hollywood favorite Tom Hiddleston, dynamically minimalist staging and an invitation to the audience to rethink its sympathies, Lloyd presents a subtly fresh take on one of Harold Pinter's greatest plays. It's a brave, sexy, at times emotionally intense, bravura production.
Paul Taylor, The Independent: In a modern classic, the actor shows off, to my mind, his classical theatre chops too. His range is beginning to look pretty limitless; Hiddleston excels in a brilliant performance as Robert, the publisher who is cuckolded by the seven-year affair between his wife Emma (Zawe Ashton) and his best friend, literary agent Jerry (Charlie Cox).
Matt Trueman, Variety: It takes three to tango, and Jamie Lloyd's "Betrayal" completely grasps that. Having made it his mission to modernize the way we stage Harold Pinter's plays, his chic, stripped-down staging starring Tom Hiddleston as a cuckolded husband might be his best attempt yet. Pared back and played out on an empty stage, this masterful play becomes not just an aching account of an extramarital affair that eats away at all three people involved, but a glinting meditation on the myriad ways we betray ourselves, and the ways our hearts seem to harden with age.
Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut: Really, though, the triumph here belongs to director Jamie Lloyd. Directing 'Betrayal' as the culmination of his Pinter at the Pinter season of all of the late playwright's one-act plays, there have to be very few people alive - or indeed dead - who understand Pinter in the way Lloyd does, and it shows here.
Mark Shenton, London Theatre: But more than any other production I've ever seen, it strips the play to its bare bones, both physically and emotionally: it is stylishly staged with minimal sets and props (four bottles stage left, three movable walls, and two chairs) that are placed on a revolve and reconfigure the space constantly. So, too, are the emotions (or sometimes lack of them) among the characters, who project an intoxicating combination of sexuality, hurt and damage. As Hiddleston's publisher first discovers his wife's affair, for instance, he is positioned against a wall that's right at the front of the stage, and his tears are visible.
Holly Williams, iNews: Lloyd has consummate control of each beat, each micro betrayal, how every truth or lie slices deep or shallow. The staging is stark, the set simple - just three walls of a pinkish fake marble, mostly offering a morose depth of field, occasionally pressing in claustrophobically. Whichever two characters are having their terse, tense interactions, the third lurks or looms. Maybe in the background, watchful even if unseeing; maybe moving past on a revolve, unseen yet accusatory.
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner