Betrayal, Comedy Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

Kristin Scott Thomas has graced the London stage on three previous occasions – each time to indelible effect.

She veered superbly, for example, between grande dame loftiness and low-down, brilliantly timed spite as Arkadina in The Seagull. Ian Rickson directed the latter, which was also a big hit on Broadway.

Scott Thomas returns to the West End now in Rickson's excellent revival of Pinter's Betrayal, playing Emma, the woman who is caught between her husband Robert, a publisher, and her lover, Jerry, a literary agent and Robert's best friend. An actress who initially made her name in film for her ability to project glacial hauteur and the uncanniness of her beauty, she is heartbreaking here in a performance of exquisitely nuanced emotional vulnerabilty and pain.

This is the best account that I have seen of Pinter's 1978 play that charts the course of the adulterous seven-year affair in reverse chronology, beginning in 1977, two years after it has ended, and then rewinds to the pass at a party that initiated it.

Everything – even the good times – are seen in the shadow of disillusion and treachery foretold and, as it flows backwards to the pensive piano broodings of Stephen Warbecks's moody bridging music, this production imparts a powerful sense of how each episode is pregnant with the sadness and the cynicism that we have already witnessed being brought to birth.

The rented flat in Kilburn that Emma forlornly hoped to make into an alternative home during the seven years of snatched afternoons dominates Jeremy Herbert's fine design with its bleak, grey-wallpapered anonymity. The other settings (rooms in the prosperous family homes, an Italian restaurant etc) are subordinated to it, revealed on mini-revolves. It pervades the proceedings with a poignant atmosphere of failure.

What this revival establishes with matchless force is the controlling dominance of the husband Robert, played with a toying sadism by the excellent Ben Miles whose intimidating air of the mannered, intellectual bruiser keeps putting you in mind of Pinter himself.

A haunting performance in a terrific revival.

To 20 August (0844 871 7622)