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09 October 2013


London Classic Theatre
Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Following a history of successes, including excellent productions of The Importance of Being Earnest and Equus, London Classic Theatre return to Chelmsford again this season with their taut production of Harold Pinter's Betrayal.  Directed by Michael Cabot, the slick, elegant performances are played out among Bek Palmer's stylised set.  Fragments of once inhabited locations that the characters, ghost-like, slip through and around, their lives reflected in the decrepit, broken down remnants of the walls.
Pinter's use of reverse chronology slowly reveals details of Emma's affair with Jerry, her husband Robert's best friend, with the audience first witnessing the pair two years after the break up of their liaison.  As we work backwards through the seventies we see changes in not only the fashions worn by the initially gloomy characters - brightening gradually from dreary browns and greys through to a bright red number on the almost decade younger Emma at the initiation of the relationship - but also in the fluidity of the text as Pinter's naturalistic half-finished sentences and disjointed conversation points make way for more fluid and relaxed excitement.  The timeframe allows the audience to have a constant sense of the future, and through the revelation of the past to piece together events and revel in the details - hearing the same half-remembered anecdotes repeated with varying levels of accuracy and revealing the depth of the relationships between all of the involved parties. 
Rebecca Pownall achieves a wonderful depth of character as Emma, portraying the uptight worries of the woman we see at the play's opening covered with a false mask of smiles, gradually shedding years and cares as we witness a youthful, energetic Emma in the honeymoon period of her illicit relationship.  The scene in Venice is particularly revealing, with Emma's stony faced reaction to Robert's knowledge of her affair - affectingly performed by Pete Collis - disclosing the emotional disconnection from her husband.  This is not a detachment shared by partner Jerry, whose regular references to his wife and family prove that despite his betrayal he is loyal to them at his heart.  A softer, needier character than Emma, he is given an intelligent portrayal by Steven Clarke.
Produced to the high quality for which London Classic Theatre are now known, this is a fast paced, revealing and thought-provoking production of an entertaining Pinter, which retains an exciting dramatic tension throughout.

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