An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Saturday, October 22, 2005  


A report on last night's visit to The Gate for the Pinter play Betrayal. The bad comments first. Typically the actors (possibly under poor direction) ruined it. Emma, the heroine (played by a woman who used to be the vet in Glenroe), was terrible. She had the most affected manner of walking and standing around I've ever seen. I am not sure whether she was told to ham it up a bit, or whether she thought it made her look cool and sophisticated, but it was really annoying. The way a person walks on stage shouldn't even register with me. And I know this is really picky, BUT, in all her costume changes she could have managed a pair of tights or stockings. How are bare legs supposed to be attractive on a mature woman, especially when they are neither tanned nor slender? Thick Irish ankles don't do it for me.

The delivery was also much slower than I think should have been the case. At the interval, a man behind me commented to his friend that he thought they had forgotten their lines the odd time because they were so slow delivering them. Now I know that people do pause in conversation and in some of the conversations you could see that pauses were crucial. Saying nothing can be very dramatic. But in one scene between the husband and his wife's lover, the lover is sooooo slow, you just want to kick him.

Having said that, they couldn't manage to kill the drama. As we gleaned from the Seinfeld episode of the same title, the action takes place in reverse. The beginning of the affair is the last scene. A casual drink 10 years later where the adulterous couple do a post-mortem is the first scene. It's so sad. The adulterers have a flat for years, lie to everybody and seem to be getting away with it but of course are caught eventually. The sad scenes are for example, where the husband finds out and isntead of going bananas, he's just sad and the marriage doesn't break up. Then he has lunch with his best friend, and as he's just discovered, his wife's lover and he doesn't say a word. They just get pissed and go on as normal. The very last scene is where the lover makes declarations to the wife and we get the first glimpse of the affair to be. The actor is crap but still: the last scene is a silhouette of them in a doorway. She was leaving the room and he's grabbed her arm and she's looking at him. Minutes earlier she had rejected him but now.....we know what is to come. The lights go down and then we have applaud the terrible performances through two bows.

Leon, who accompanied me, remarked that they shouldn't have come out for any bows. The last scene was so dramatic that they should have just ended it and we never see them again. I agree. Also it would have saved us the hypocrisy of clapping.

Finally, yet again, I had to shake my head at the thick Irish audiences who laughed at very inappropriate times. Maybe they are just uncomfortable and don't realise that some lines are bitterly ironic and not funny at all. Maybe I see tragedy where there is humour? Still, I remember this happening at Medea, surely one of the most tragic plays ever, and the thickos kept giggling. I think John Waters was compelled to write a column on the subject.

posted by Sarah | 20:29 5 comments
I know from your recent mails that you are new to Pinter but are you joking about the pausing? It's in the stage directions - it's the signature of Pinter, the essence of Pinteresque. If you don't like pausing, don't see Pinter. It's not the actors' fault although their ankles and other defects might well be.

That said, a lot of people find it annoying but your article makes it appear that either you weren't expecting it and it was the actors' fault, or you knew he liked a pause but not by how much - I hope it's the latter.
Hi gerry. I wasn't expecting the pausing as I was not familiar with Pinter. However, I think I was able to tell which were the proper pauses and which were the slow delivery ones. For example in the opening scene where the lovers meet for the post-mortem the pauses are excellent and you can see that they are clever and add to the drama. In fact I loved them. But when there is heated conversation, for example, between the lover and the cuckolded husband, the lover is I think being too slow in putting one word after another.

I think I would love to see this play again by better actors. By the way, I should mention at this point that the husband was actually very good. It was the lover and the wife who are bad.
I have consulted a proper theatre person who saw this production. He says "I think you're on the
money as far as that production is concerned. For me, the script was ingenious if a little thin, but a good vehicle for actors. Of the
cast, however, only Nick Dunning as the husband caught the Pinter
style - the others I thought were miscast and tended to confirm my
suspicion that Irish actors can't play Pinter. Chilling precision,
menacing insouciance, those carefully weighted pauses: not much in evidence."
I am thrilled and relieved that my instincts have been validated. Still if any of my London based readers see a Pinter coming up, why not let me know and we can see what the Brits do with him (even if they hate Pinter himself).
I will check out at the london end but I don't think that Irish actors are gentically incapable of playing Pinter. I have seen som student productions of Pinter with Irish actors and they can remember the words and pauses and hit their marks like anyone else. Is there anything else to acting?
OVER acting Gerry. It's terrible.
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