First Night: Betrayal, Comedy Theatre, London

4.00

Scott Thomas is a picture of exquisite pain in Pinter revival

Kristin Scott Thomas has graced the London stage on three previous occasions – each time to indelible effect. She was a dazzling enigma as the heroine who may or may not have radically mislaid her identity in Pirandello's trenchant teaser, As You Desire Me. She veered superbly between grande dame loftiness and low-down, brilliantly timed spite as Arkadina in The Seagull. Ian Rickson directed the latter, which was also a hit on Broadway.

Scott Thomas returns to the West End now in Rickson's excellent revival of Pinter's Betrayal, playing Emma, the woman 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 for glacial hauteur and the uncanniness of her beauty, she is heart-breaking here in a performance of exquisitely nuanced emotional vulnerability and pain.

This is the best account that I have seen of Pinter's 1978 play, which charts the course of the adulterous seven-year affair in reverse chronology, beginning in 1977, two years after it has ended, and then rewinding to the pass at a party that initiated it. Everything is seen in the shadow of disillusion and treachery foretold and as it flows backwards, to the pensive piano broodings of Stephen Warbecks' 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 flat in Kilburn that Emma hoped to make into an alternative home dominates Jeremy Herbert's fine design with its bleak anonymity. The other settings are subordinated to it, revealed on mini-revolves. It pervades the proceedings with failure. In one of many eloquent directorial touches, Emma is seen sitting, in her mind's eye on the long-abandoned bed, as though still filled with the memory of it, before rising to cross to the first scene of the awkward pub reunion.

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 leather jacket, dark sideburns and air of the mannered, intellectual bruiser keep putting you in mind of Pinter himself. It's one of the many interlocking acts of betrayal that when Robert finds out about the affair, he keeps his best friend and cuckolder ignorant of the fact. He prefers to preserve a manipulative hold.

In the Venice hotel room, he alternately tears the bedspread off the bed in anger and taps his wife familiarly under the chin. In a London restaurant, he gives an hilariously violent diatribe against modern literature before the bemused Jerry (a very fine Douglas Henshall). The male pair seem to be magnetised in an intimate bully-masochist liaison, perversely sustained by the affair. Never has it been clearer that Emma gets the raw deal than here where Scott Thomas radiates a poignant adoration of Jerry. She adopts the mock-jauntiness of the insecure as she puts out feelers to see if he will change his life for her, only to subside into desolation when he fails her. A haunting performance in a terrific revival.

Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering