Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Betrayal at the Pinter (2019)

March 5, 2019: 

111 Days after Tom Hiddleston posted a cryptic teaser video on his Twitter page and exactly one month after rehearsals began - Betrayal finally debuted at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London. The cast is scheduled for exactly 100 shows over 12 weeks running March 5 - June 1, 2019 *Update: The show was extended through June 8 due to the demand! With a seating capacity of nearly 800 per night, this will be the most accessible theatre production that Tom Hiddleston has ever done in his career. More people will see Betrayal in the opening week than saw RADA Hamlet period. Within three weeks, more people will have seen Betrayal than saw Coriolanus on stage. 

Golden Globe and Olivier Award winner Tom Hiddleston (Robert) stars alongside Zawe Ashton (Emma) and Charlie Cox (Jerry) in the Jamie Lloyd Company's revival of Harold Pinter's Betrayal. With poetic precision, rich humour and extraordinary emotional force, Betrayal charts a compelling seven-romance, thrillingly captured in reverse chronological order. - Pinter at the Pinter


You can view a full gallery of images here. Tom was the first cast member announced, but we actually have Zawe to thank for the play coming together. After they performed a scene from Betrayal during the Happy Birthday, Harold Gala in October 2018 she lobbied the producers to make it happen for real: 

"We had about 15 minutes rehearsal. we had such a lovely time and people kept coming up afterwards asking if we were in rehearsals. That was never the plan but by the end of the night, I was asking the producers, 'Why aren't we doing this? Should we be doing this?'"

Tom and Zawe also performed together during the Dickens vs Tolstoy debate that same month. They managed to do something I always thought was impossible - make Tolstoy funny. Charlie Cox was the final Pinter Puzzle piece. Tom and Charlie met while doing the audition circuit in London early in their careers. 

This was not the first time these three actors have worked together. In 2010, they were all a part of Dramatic Need's inaugural The Children's Monologues. Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Cox both performed on stage, and Zawe Ashton served as one of the writers. 

Back in 2016, Tom said that he wanted variety, to "push (himself) into new territory, be out of (his) comfort zone" and was waiting to "find what's unexpected". The character of Robert in Betrayal definitely ticks all those boxes for him because it is worlds away from most of Tom's other work. Robert is a husband, a father, a friend. He works as a book publisher. He doesn't have any extraordinary abilities. He doesn't have any kind of title. He isn't a soldier. He isn't facing any type of extreme life-or-death situation. You would have to go all the way back to Tom Hiddleston's work with Joanna Hogg to find a character who is just a normal person dealing with every day issues.

But just because the play is normal does not mean that it is easy. Even for veteran actors Pinter is a difficult playwright to perform with his famous pauses, limited dialogue, and hidden emotions. Tom Hiddleston once said that "theatre is an artform that thrives on words and language" and that "you can't be silent for long because within that silence the play will die". But during his interview at ACE Comic Con, Tom seemed excited about the challenge of exploring the untold story within the story. 

Betrayal is about a triangle of three very intimate, complex relationships. It's a masterpiece... in lots of ways it's about intimacy and the things we do to avoid it, and also the things we do because we crave and need it. It's a very deep play. There's a lot going on beneath the surface. What will be really interesting is excavating that - the things that are not said, the things that are felt inside but are never said. I think there's a tension between the external and the internal. 

Based on the rave reviews that the play has received I'm gonna say Tom managed just fine! When I spoke to Christopher McGill after the teaser video was released he said that we should expect something different from Jamie Lloyd's direction of the play. And he did not disappoint! There are definitely some key changes such as the children being featured and the time period. All of the actors stayed on stage for the entire performance, even for scenes in which they were not featured. Tom described this as the other character "haunting" the scene. 

For Tom, Jamie made Robert more emotional - both outward and inwardly. For example: This photo is from the scene where Robert finds out the Emma and Jerry have been having an affair for five years... but their son has only just turned one. You can clearly see the anguish on his face from not only learning about their Betrayal but also of the thought that his child may not be his own.

There has been a lot of praise for the minimalist set designed by Soutra Gilmour as well. For the most part, the stage is completely empty save from some chairs and glasses. It keeps your focus completely on the actors. Also, the stage rotates to signal a scene change!  



In Interview Magazine, Tom Hiddleston credited Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize speech as one of the inspirations for the charity work he does. In that regard, Tom is using Betrayal as a way to give back to both fans and to the world. There are several raffles, auctions, and challenges available for a chance to win tickets to Betrayal and meet with Tom afterwards - all to benefit Comic Relief or Red Nose Day USA. You can find out more here



The biggest fashion question I had going into the play was will they keep the 70s time period? Tom previously wore 70s era clothing in High-Rise and Kong: Skull Island. I had emailed the costume designer, looked at archive images from past Betrayal productions, researched 70s fashion etc. And then I got to rip all that up because Tom Hiddleston is performing in his finest Tom Hiddleston era clothing. 

I know it looks the same but Tom is wearing a completely different out during the production than what we saw in rehearsals. In a well planned call back - Tom Hiddleston is wearing the same Alexander McQueen suit that he wore to the Happy Birthday, Harold Gala and for the Betrayal Teaser video. He is also wearing the John Smedley Lundy pullover. 

And the Betrayal in Betrayal runs deeps, because Charlie Cox sports a similar pair of Tom's favorite grey chelsea boots on stage. 

Pictures by Marc Brennar and Charlie Gray

1 comment:

  1. Hi Marlena,

    I'm really enjoying reading your coverage about Tom in Betrayal!

    As well as information about the show, it is essential for your users to be able to get comprehensive details of the seating. We host an interactive seating plan with user reviews and view from seat photos for the theatre here:

    Would you be happy to include this on your page?