Theatre: Curtain calls

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The Independent Culture
With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to declare that Betrayal is one of Harold Pinter's finest works. It has been performed the world over since it premiered at the Lyttelton 20 years ago, during which time it has been made into a film (1982 - above) - Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley and Patricia Hodge took on Jerry, Robert and Emma, the mutually deceiving adulterers. But the critical reception at the beginning was hostile. Given that the political sensibilities which informed that reaction are no longer as acute, the response to Trevor Nunn's revival of this intensely domestic affair should prove fascinating. Few would deny that Betrayal's anti-clockwise motion, which plots a backwards course over nine years, is ingenious: mimicking the privileges and paranoias of deception, it adds layers of irony to Pinter's tersely worded, blackly comic exchanges. But is the play timeless? Nunn has set the action in the Nineties. This isn't flaunted, but it will invite comparisons with Patrick Marber's Closer, which also organised messy emotions along rigid lines, and also - coincidentally? - starred Imogen Stubbs. Mrs Trevor Nunn joins Douglas Hodge and Anthony Calf for the menage-a-trois. Time will tell whether Betrayal has anything more to say for itself.

Lyttelton Theatre, London SE1 (0171-452 3000) now previewing, opens Tue then in rep from 5 Dec

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