Thursday, August 15, 2019

Betrayal Broadway: Opening Preview (2019)

August 14, 2019:

Welcome to Broadway! I scoped out the Jacobs Theatre when I arrived in NYC yesterday and there was still a lot of working being done, so to see it transformed into Betrayal literally overnight is something magical. I'm probably in the minority of people who also saw Tom Hiddleston's first New York performance when he performed in Cymbeline with Cheek By Jowl at BAM in 2007. The play that ultimately earned him an Olivier Award.  For the record, even twelve years ago Tom Hiddleston was already Tom Hiddleston on stage.  And instead of diminishing, the radiating sense of power you feel when he's on stage has only gotten more profound. So, it was a unique kind of pleasure to be able to watch Tom, along with Zawe Ashton, Charlie Cox, and Eddie Arnold - fulfill the dream of performing on Broadway. 

Because Mr. Hiddleston can describe Betrayal probably more eloquently than even Harold Pinter himself I will let him provide the synopsis (courtesy of SiriusXM).

"It's a three-hander: Robert, Emma, and Jerry. Robert and Emma are married, husband and wife. Robert and Jerry are old, best friends. Jerry was best man at Robert and Emma's wedding. And Emma and Jerry have been having an affair. It's called Betrayal. It's about these three complex relationships: the marriage, the friendship, the romance. Those three relationships are dependent on each other. When one of those relationships breaks down so does the other two. I think we're the first company to stage it this way in that all these actors are on stage for the duration of the piece. There are a lot of scenes between two people but having the presence of the third character physically in the space shows you that actually that character's in the mind of both people all the time - the inner affair or inner Betrayal of any kind you carry that third object in your mind. You're not truly free." 

When I first read the play, I didn't find any of the characters to be particularly sympathetic. Maybe it's an age thing. Maybe it's a cultural thing. I joked with a friend that the play is really just three a**holes trying to figure out how to out a**hole each other. That's the problem with stories being told in reverse - you see the characters as what they are now without any context so it's hard to get attached. 

Betrayal Broadway offers a much more emotional telling of the Pinter classic. Tom often refers to a collective connection that audiences will make during a play. You will feel that here. 

Robert (Tom) is an easy man to dislike. Especially since the first time we hear his voice he's casually chatting about slapping his wife around just so he can scratch that old "itch". In his first few scenes he comes across as brutish. A brute with smug eyebrows. Yes, his eyebrows are smug. But your opinion of him will change drastically once you reach Scene Five and beyond. Watching this man - who up until this point has shown no redeemable qualities - fight a losing battle with his emotions as his wife finally reveals the details of her affair with his best friend. Or as tears fall into his plate as he attacks his melone while probably wishing that melone was a certain person's face instead. We're not even going to talk about Scene Eight when he rotates around the stage cradling his young daughter while his wife is spending quality time with her lover. You're going to feel some things in your feeling places! Like many of the characters Tom has played, you will find that his cruelty is born out of pain. 

I think the infamous Pinter pauses and silences are best used in Scene Five. When Robert asks Emma whether or not he's the father of his own child I don't care how long it takes:  the. audience. will. wait. for. that. answer! 

In his interview with, Tom also described Betrayal as a battle "between two men over one woman". I did not get that feeling from the play at all. It was a battle for sure. But I don't think Emma (Zawe) was their prize. Both men seemed to value their friendship with each other - or at least the competitiveness of their friendship - much more than their romantic relationships with Emma. Robert (Tom) even admits during that he likes Jerry (Charlie) more than Emma. Jerry doesn't seem too broken up about Emma ending their affair but Jerry's complete indignation over not knowing that Robert knew is pure comedy. Because somehow Robert keeping that secret is worse than Jerry sleeping with his wife for almost a decade? It also explains why Robert would continue to be friends with Jerry. That was always my question going into it. If I found out my friend was messing around with my significant other I'm cancelling more than the weekly squash match! Could it simply be that Robert needs his friend more than he needs his wife? There's also the fact that his friend makes him a lot of money.


(photo by Marc Brenner from Betrayal Pinter. I will update this post when Betrayal Broadway photos are released) 

I didn't really on focus on fashion in my Betrayal-Pinter write up. It's hard to know how clothing can play a part in a story without seeing it. Obviously Tom is wearing his own clothes so it should be simple but... now that I've seen the play I do feel like there is a deliberateness in how each of the characters is presented. None of these characters are static. They move on the stage in a choreographed dance, even when in the background. Jackets on. Jackets off. Shirts on. Shirts off...almost. Sorry to disappoint. 

Robert (Tom) is dressed very sharply. He's got on a designer suit, a luxury sweater, dress shoes etc. It's his power suit. Tom's character holds the most power in this play. He has power over Jerry at work. He has the power of knowledge because he knows of the affair and makes Zawe confess to it. He has power over Jerry because he hides the fact that he knows of the affair. He even has power over Emma's new lover, (the often referred to but never seen) Casey. Interestingly, Robert's most vulnerable moments (lunch with Jerry, confronting Emma) happen when he doesn't have his suit jacket on. His suit becomes his armour. 

Emma (Zawe) and her feet have been keeping me awake for six months. For real. During the London production I was so curious as to why Zawe performed barefoot. And none of the interviewers felt the need to ask about it. There's something very intimate about feet right? There's an argument between Emma and Jerry (Scene Six) where she shouts that all she does is cook and clean. And then it hit me. Emma is barefoot and pregnant. Barefoot - literally. And at times pregnant - literally. 
Her clothes even seem more '70's inspired. After reading her book, Zawe seems like the type who would honor the time-period even if it isn't explicitly mentioned in this current production. Betrayal was written in the 1970's when women were still expected to stay home and raise babies rather. Emma does start working at a Gallery in the beginning of the play and that ultimately ends her relationship with Jerry. Her not being free in the afternoons and all. 

Jerry (Charlie) looks like he's been having a bad day. Robert even comments at one point that his friend is looking "rough". Out of all of the three, Jerry is the one with the least power. He has very little control over anything that happens in the story. The two other characters keep secrets from him for years. Robert sets the terms for the friendship. Emma sets the terms for their relationship. The man Jerry discovered and mentored becomes Emma new lover. Even Jerry's posture is that of a man who's been defeated. During their background time Robert and Emma are usually doing something active - walking around, having a picnic etc. Meanwhile you're more likely to find Jerry slouched down in his time out chair. He is the most betrayed. 


Here's a look at the Broadway Playbill for Betrayal. Eventually (post likely after Opening Night) there will be Betrayal Broadway related merchandise available on from the Playbill Store. This usually includes Opening Night Playbills, Autographed items, and other souvenirs so keep an eye out. 


There are still plenty of tickets left. Actually way more than I expected there to be but the Jacobs Theatre is massive and they are performing for 4 months. Telecharge has released loads of $25 tickets. Some of those tickets are in high-quality areas. You could have had my seat in the third row for $25 - I paid significantly more than that during the general sale. So, there's that. Betrayal is running until December 8, 2018!

This review is sponsored by real life heart-eye emoji faces. 

PS: Charlie and I are filming a documentary. It's called How to Turn A Tom Hiddleston Fan Into A Charlie Cox Stan: Betrayal 2.0. Coming soon to Tribeca. I smell Oscar Buzz. joking. joking. I stan them both. Go see the play and you will stan them all. Someone recorded this and turned it into a sweet gif. 

Shout out to my human seeing eye guide dog, hype (wo)man, and wingman Victoria for taking all the pictures. 


  1. Chica, you write so well! Having seen the London production, I understand exactly your points. Great insight about the "barefoot" part. Bless you for having been there on the first night - and you looked fabulous. Bright blessings - Eileen

    1. Thank you! I had no idea so many people had the same thoughts as I did wondering about Zawe's feet until I made this post. I thought it was just my weird foot fetish talking.

  2. Thanks for your insights into the play! Keep up the great work.

  3. Thank you for your review, especially for getting Emma!
    I saw Betrayal in London in April and again shortly before closing in June, and was disappointed that the mostly male reviewers didn't really seem to care for Emma all that much.
    I was keeping my fingers crossed for you to be able to meet the cast afterwards. You're internet famous now! You're in so many agency and fan pics, and you're also in the short video that Torilla posted on her weibo page!

    1. Well to be honest, I didn't care for Emma that much too. She was the opposite of how I felt about Robert (Someone I disliked in the beginning and felt for by the end). Instead I was like "you go girl" in the beginning, and by the end I was like "oh no we are gonna fight". Lol. But that's just a sign of great acting - on both parts. They're supposed to make you feel things. And yes, thank you. I did see that video. I honestly had no idea I was going to be up front like that going in *face palm*

    2. No, don't feel the need to face palm, please! You're one of the lead Hiddlestonians after all, and you completely deserve this!
      All the best for your health from Nanea, commenting anonymously here, because I'm signed in to my RL account right now.

    3. Thank you Nanea. Chris Hewitt actually came up with the term "Hiddlestonian". He was talking about it in one of his podcasts with Tom. :)

  4. Thank you for this post! I like this review of the play and the characters...yet I didn't see but I hope that when I get the visa I could go.

    1. I'm glad. Since 99% of Tom's theater performances have been in the UK (and I've never been there) I wanted to right a review that would be detailed enough for people who couldn't see it to still be about to see it. I'm going back for the last show on December 8 so if you get that VISA come with us!

  5. Thanks for the review, sounds like it hasn't altered at all since London. Did you know Joan Bakewell (who Emma is based on) made her own radio play in response to Betrayal, it's called "Keeping in Touch"... I found it extremely interesting.

    1. No, I hadn't heard about Joan's follow up yet but I will be sure to check it out. Bakewell saw the London production and afterwards said this version was the most accurate she had seen.