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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
BETRAYAL
at the Donmar Warehouse

FORM REVERSAL
By Michael Leech


It's one of those odd things that playwrights discover from others and seem to want to do most urgently themselves. Write their play in reverse. Though the prospect may seem intriguing it almost always becomes tedious, a mere cute trick. Which is all it really is. You just cannot imagine composers doing it, or architects, or poets. It just would not work would it?

For plays however this idea is somehow 'smart'. And Harold Pinter does like being up there with star writers. He has certainly proved his ability as actor and deft director too. (When he married Lady Antonia Frazer the wags said 'she always wanted to marry a genius and he always wanted to marry into the aristocracy'. Interesting.) I've always found reversing a theatre piece a bore to contemplate, a maddening and tedious prospect to watch. All you can do is roll with other playwrights trying it out: but that isn't easy, particularly with our complex Mr. Pinter. He's a genius right? Even that magician Stephen Sondheim in Merrily We Roll Along, took on a reverse plot and found it a major challenge. And I felt he failed. Awkwardly. If you react as I do, you are always back tracking and trying to recall who did what and when and to which one? (Rather like the famous limerick about the gay man and the lesbian, ending with the telling and echoing line 'and who did what and to whom?'). Maybe the creators simply want to get the minds of an audience working!

So following along, Pinter does a repeat of his very own here with his trip backwards in the well- regarded Betrayal at the Donmar in Covent Garden. Touching end at the start, first kiss as the finale. It is a challenge and certainly enlivens the brain cells. One wonders if the actors find it confusing too?

Producers must love the fact Pinter never uses many actors and it's capital casting here. It really isn't worth doing a Pinter if you aren't to have a star cast. In this 'shattering account of love and deceit' as the blurb has it he is again very well served: Samuel West (always a cracker), Toby Stephens( son of Robert Stephens and Maggie Smith) as his rival, while the wandering woman is Dervia Kirwan. The action of the amorous trio takes place over seven years as the deceit developes - remember it's all backwards! Director is Roger Michell, designer William Dudley so it's a stellar lot you get for your money.

 

 


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