THE greatest challenge in staging Betrayal - written by Harold Pinter in response to his seven-year affair with Joan Bakewell - is to make it seem more than a study of narrow bourgeois concerns. Had it been written in the age of Twitter, this portrait of a relationship between a woman and her husband's best friend would come with the hashtag #firstworldproblems.
But a distinguishing quality of Dominic Hill's revival of this back-to-front love story is his mastery of every beat of the script and, yes, every Pinter pause. What he brings, in his inaugural production as artistic director at the Citz, is such steely precision that each moment really counts.
It comes across as an unflinching vision of the emotional inarticulacy of the British upper-middle class, as Neve McIntosh (wife Emma), Hywel Simons (lover Jerry) and Cal Macaninch (husband Robert) give a masterclass in staring each other out. At moments of intimacy just as much as moments of tension, they hold their expressions as rigid as masks, letting us project on to them a barrage of subtextual angst and ecstasy.
All three are terrific. McIntosh is the sensuous woman whose passions are constantly reined in by the duplicity of her affair and the restraint of her partners. Relatively speaking, Simons is her most forthcoming mate, but he is ever likely to withdraw when matters get intense. You would call him the epitome of the buttoned-up male if you hadn't seen Macaninch's militaristic reserve. When the men say they are friends, we have to take them at their word, because they display the wariness of strangers and only the faintest glimmer of icy, dry humour.
Particularly effective is the set by Colin Richmond, which uses screens and a revolve to create a fluid journey back through time. Performed without interval, this Betrayal is tough, intense and rings true.
© Mark Fisher, 2012 (Pic: Richard Campbell)
More coverage at theatreSCOTLAND.com
Sign up for theatreSCOTLAND updates
Sign up for theatreSCOTLAND discussion