March 20, 2019:
Tom Hiddleston took a break from starring in Betrayal at the Harold Pinter Theatre to chat with composer Nicholas Britell on BBC Radio 4's Only Artists. The show focused on the power of music in film. Nicholas has received two Academy Award nominations for his work on Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. Tom referred to film music as his "private passion" and being disappointed as a child that "reality didn't have a soundtrack". I think there's always been hints of it. There are 10 film compositions on his Song of the Day list and Tom has referred to the fact the music helps him prepare many times.
The conversation opened with the men discussing the film Chariots of Fire and how it inspired them on different ways. For Nicholas, it inspired him to start playing the piano and begin his journey to becoming a composer. For Tom, the film inspired his "lifelong love of running". Nicholas Farrell, who stars in the movie, played Tom's father in RADA Hamlet. Tom talked about how playing Hamlet was an extraordinary emotional journey "because it's so raw but the pleasure of doing the whole thing is that you carry with you the emotion from the previous scene".
Tom Hiddleston also talked about playing in Othello on stage. To prepare for his first scene each night, he would run up and down the fire escape listening to the Trevor Jones' Elk Hunt score from Last of the Mohicans.
"It's got this extraordinary propulsive momentum. This urgency. And there's this emotion of running. Running up and down the fire escape at the Donmar and listening to this track felt like a key into the romance of the play, the profundity of the subject matter, the kind of ancient quality of this piece. And I walked on stage trying to carry all of those things within me."
For Loki, the challenge was to be able to express the "mischief" and "vulnerability" at the same time. Patrick Doyle worked on the score for the first film and used the minor key to make Loki sound "duplicitous" compared to Thor's "redemptive" major key. Tom also credited the song "Mind Heist" by Zack Hemsy as a song that influenced his performance as Loki.
"The music becomes the prism through which the emotional light is shown... It has a kind of ticking clock momentum which always reminded me of the speed of his mind. An extraordinary, grandiose brass and percussion which just feels immediately epic."
Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Cox, and Zawe Ashton were also on BBC Radio 4's Front Row to talk about their stage play, Betrayal. The cast were interviewed by Samira Ahmed. As far as I can tell, this is the first time that the cast have all been interviewed at the same time.
One of the most discussed part of Jamie Lloyd's production is that all of the characters are on stage for the entire performance, even during scenes in which they are not featured. Tom described it as the other character "haunting" the scene. Charlie added that it "highlights certain lines, certain moments".
Tom also talked about the difficult scene where Robert reveals he hit his wife.
"It's the only time it's referred to which is curious. If it's true, he may be saying it regretfully. And if it is true I tried to think "well why?" and it's probably because he hasn't been able to process honestly his own pain. So that's been repressed and distorted and externalized in acts of cruelty. It's troubling."
Squash has an underlying symbolism in the play. In preparation for their roles, Tom and Charlie played squash together for real. Their onstage battles also felt like a game of squash for the leading men. There were also several snippets of Scene Four from Betrayal played throughout the broadcast. Did the cast cast perform the scene for the show? Is there going to be an audiobook or recording released later?!?!?
The cast also debated the difference between a Pinter Pause and Silence. Charlie had the best answer:
"The boring answer is one's longer. But, when you pause - it's either because you were gonna say something and you decide not to or you thought the other person was gonna say something and they didn't. The idea being that you take a break in the continued through line of that moment so you pause. A silence - during or after the silence - one or both of the characters are changed and then you have to pick up a new moment at the end of it There's something very dead and alive to a silence that a pause doesn't quite have."
The broadcast concluded with this insight on the play from Tom Hiddleston:
"For a play where the dialogue is so much about characters not saying what they mean. The silences allowed the subtext to live. So in the Venice scene with Zawe, Robert knows about the affair. He cannot bring himself to say he knows. And in every silence the knowledge and the pain of that knowledge gets deeper. He's almost circling it and trying to find an opening. so that Emma will confess. And then when she does it comes out in a whisper. To me that sums up the play. It's Betrayal. The moment when you know your life is irreversibly changed. I think in that split second your mind rewrites history with the new piece of information you have and you realize you're a fool."
Cast photos by Marc Brenner.