10 June 2011

Betrayal at the Comedy Theatre

We all make mistakes and going to see Betrayal was one of mine.

I was tempted by the big names, Pinter wrote it and it stars Douglas Henshall (Primaeval) and Ben Miles (Coupling), and was finally hooked by a ticket deal that got me a reasonable seat for £25.

The play opened badly.

In the first scene lovers Douglas Henshall and Kristin Scott Thomas (a new name to me) met in a bar that reeked of the waiting room in Brief Encounter. At first I assumed that Henshall's character was meant to be drunk as he mumbled his way unconvincingly through the opening dialogue.

The stilted conversation was due, at least in part, to Henshall forgetting lines and having to be prompted. After that I was never sure if the poor dialogue was down to more forgotten lines, bad acting, real drunkenness or the director's intention. Either way the dialogue sucked throughout.

The play tries to be clever by starting at the end and working back to the beginning but once you know how it ends there are no surprises and no drama.

The characters were mostly unconvincing too. Henshall and Miles are prominent literary figures, both edited poetry magazines at Oxbridge, but you had to be told this as you would never have guessed. Miles came across as a businessman, which, to be fair, he had become, while Henshall was a school teacher. Economics probably.

Kristin Scott Thomas was a compelling gallery owner and was the one bright spark in the whole production.

Unfortunately her brightness made the dimness elsewhere even more obvious. I could never convince myself that a bright young thing like her could have had an affair with Henshall. The surprise was even greater than Shula Archer's when Caroline Bone revealed that her secret lover was Brian Aldridge (a classic Archers episode).

The betray in the title is missing from the play. Betrayal is a much stronger word than, say cheating, but nobody in the play seems that bothered by anybody else's infidelity.

There is only one scene with any passion in it at all and that's when Miles accuses Scott Thomas of having an affair with Henshall. But one good walk later and all is forgiven and life carries on as before.

Betrayal is a limp play presented limply and while Kristin Scott Thomas brightens it a bit that is not enough to make it worth seeing. Avoid.

1 comment:

  1. I saw this in Melbourne before I left. Agree. You can have sparkling actors in it and it's still limp!


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