Betrayal, Comedy Theatre, London
Luise Miller, Donmar Warehouse, London
Shrek the Musical, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London

Harold Pinter's ingeniously structured portrait of adultery is riveting to start with but, despite star casting, fails to maintain its backward momentum

Harold Pinter's intimate portrait of infidelity tracks backwards through time, mapping the course of an adulterous affair in reverse – from 1977 to 1968.

Betrayal is ingeniously structured, resembling a series of troubled memories, romantically nostalgic in part, but also raking over the past to detect every latent hint of duplicity, or – more regretfully perhaps – searching for some prior era of innocence.

Ian Rickson's West End revival is riveting at first, as Kristin Scott Thomas's Emma and Douglas Henshall's Jerry – her husband's best friend – meet up for a drink two years after breaking off their love affair. Their initial small talk is comically awkward and taut with conflicting emotions. Her smile has a trace of bitterness, yet a still-smitten vulnerability surfaces too as she says her marriage to Robert is ending. Has Jerry shrugged her off comparatively easily, or is he self-deceived and still hooked?

In Jerry's tête-à-têtes with Ben Miles's Robert, the latter's double-edged comments also tilt between smouldering aggression and repressed anguish as he swigs stiff drinks (because he has, in fact, known for years about Emma's two-timing).

This production – played out in an unfolding set of pale rooms – somehow loses steam, however. Maybe Miles is too lightweight, not quite galled and dangerous enough. And Henshall is curiously static in the final scene when he is surely meant to be more seductively intoxicated – in a bedroom at a party in 1968.

In Michael Grandage's new staging of Luise Miller – Friedrich Schiller's tragedy from 1784 – an incriminating letter falls into the hands of the romantic hero, Ferdinand (Max Bennett). It indicates that his low-born sweetheart, Felicity Jones's Luise, has been unfaithful. Before this calamity, the young aristo had sworn to follow his heart, revolting against the old regime and class system.

But his mind is ultimately poisoned by the wiles of the court, a snakepit of cunning deceivers in embroidered finery. Ferdinand's own father, the Chancellor, has determined on a marriage of political convenience, arranging for his son to wed the Prince's mistress, Lady Milford.

What's enthralling in Grandage's production is that you yourself can't be sure what to believe (which is also the case in Betrayal, incidentally). Here the "baddies" are extremely good liars. Ben Daniels plays the Chancellor not as an obvious authoritarian but with flashes of fond, paternal decency – flicking into a U-turn as he expresses admiration for Frederick's sense of honour. Alex Kingston's Lady Milford is unsettling too, a mercenary with a heart of gold.

Through judicious paring, Mike Poulton's new English adaptation generates more suspenseful uncertainty than the wordier original. On the downside, one trenchant (and surely topical) passage is cut where Milford alludes to the autocratic Prince shooting protesters and razing settlements. Personally, I'd rather the self-conscious echoes of Shakespeare (Othello, Macbeth et al.) had been snipped. Cavils aside, this is the most gripping of all Grandage's Schiller revivals. His cast invests a potentially over-the-top melodrama with driving intensity and wry humour. An austere setting – shadowy brick arches and shuttered windows – is in welcome contrast to Schiller's baroque plot-twists. Ferdinand too becomes interestingly twisted, his idealism turning destructive when he's disastrously misled about Luise.

Speaking of ghastly mistakes, I'd like to apologise for two howling errors in my review last week. Lindsay Posner, not Lindsay Duncan, is the director of Butley and Kyle Soller as Khlestakov, not Callum Dixon as Osip, is Gogol's supposed government inspector at the Young Vic. Sitting through Shrek the Musical was insufficient penance. This mega, West End family show is mildly disappointing schlock, but not completely dreadful. As the lowly ogre who rescues a princess, Nigel Lindsay is lovable enough, but his acting talent is swamped by his slime-green fat-suit. The dialogue can be droll and there's a certain pleasure to seeing Amanda Holden's initially sniffy Princess Fiona bonding with Shrek in a farting duet. Yet this still feels like a sanitised fairytale, for everything is so synthetic.

Most of the sets are oddly drab, in a hotchpotch of styles. The plot – skimpy compared to the film – is padded with innumerable songs. Only the amorous dragon's soul number, "Forever" (voiced by Landi Oshinowo), is storming. Ironically it's the mini-dictator Lord Farquaad who's the main delight. Nigel Harman flounces around his castle on cloak-concealed knees with tiny faux-legs swinging from his hips, like the high-camp love child of Richard III and a ventriloquist's dummy.

'Betrayal' (0844 871 7622) to 20 Aug; 'Luise Miller' (0844 871 7624) to 30 Jul; 'Shrek' (0844 871 8810) to 19 Feb

Next Week:

Kate Bassett sees Paul Hilton cavort with the devil in Marlowe's Dr Faustus

Theatre Choice

Edward Albee's drawing-room drama, A Delicate Balance, is both satirically droll and imbued with a dark, dreamlike surreality in James McDonald's gripping production at the Almeida, London (to 2 Jul), with Penelope Wilton. James Corden is a blast in One Man, Two Guvnors, the NT's 1960s update of Carlo Goldoni's commedia farce, (to 26 Jul).

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine