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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best plays ever written
One of the best plays I've read, if not the best. I've spent three months directing this play, and I wouldn't have invested that time if it hadn't meant a lot to me.

Let me add that I could not have asked for a better run. We blew away at least some of the audience every night -- had the whole audience leaning forward on the edge of their seats (never seen that...
Published on November 20, 2004 by Adrian Tan

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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Short, somewhat cryptic scenes from a marriage.
This is a play about three people - Jerry, Robert and Emma. Emma's married to Robert but has a long affair with Jerry. They are sophisticated, upper class, white people in England in the 1970's. The play is about Jerry's hooking up with Emma over a period of years, the fact of Robert finding out, and the ending of their marriage, for possibly unrelated reasons, some time...
Published on August 16, 2009 by Amazon Customer


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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best plays ever written, November 20, 2004
By 
Adrian Tan (Sydney, New South Wales Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Betrayal (Paperback)
One of the best plays I've read, if not the best. I've spent three months directing this play, and I wouldn't have invested that time if it hadn't meant a lot to me.

Let me add that I could not have asked for a better run. We blew away at least some of the audience every night -- had the whole audience leaning forward on the edge of their seats (never seen that before in a theatre!), had people crying, had people talking about it for hours afterwards. So, if you're looking for a good play to produce or direct...

Some background info to start. It's nine scenes. It's about 90 minutes running time, depending on how you work the deafening pauses. It has three characters plus one (there's an unnamed waiter that appears in one of the scenes). It can be performed on a minimalist set. It largely plays backwards in time, like Memento or Irreversible.

It's an examination of a seven-year affair between two married people. It explores all the emotions you go through in the situation, and all the different types of betrayal. It's considered the classic study of the situation and Pinter's most accessible work, and it's probably his most personal. It's based on Pinter's real life affair with Joan Bakewell, "the thinking man's crumpet". Pinter wrote no full-length play after it till 1994. It was first produced in 1978, made into a (fairly boring) movie with Jeremy Irons in 1983, for which Pinter wrote the screenplay and an extra scene 8.5. I think the most famous production was in New York in 2000, starring Juliette Binoche. And the play has a Seinfeld episode based on it (the one where Elaine's friend gets married in India).

Why am I so wowed by it? Where to start... Let me break it into three things.

Firstly, the structure is compelling. And Betrayal may have been the original -- I can't think of an earlier instance of the backwards-in-time narrative. Backwards-in-time means the audience usually knows more than the characters, is driven by "how" rather than "what", and you get a lot of unusual dramatic effects. Characters misremember things, details are filled out or references explained. And the events of the past progressively become more significant: all the inevitability of the future is written on them. Consider the final moment of the play, the moment when the affair begins -- the two characters simply look at each other, and they just know. As an audience, you feel hopeful, but at the same time you're aware of all the horrible stuff they're going to go through over the next nine years, so it's a beautiful moment, but also incredibly sad.

Secondly the language, line-by-line, is amazing. There is no other English play that says so little and implies so much. And, if you read the biographies, you'll find that Pinter took enormous care over this -- every pause is significant. It requires brilliant acting -- characters *never* say what they mean, what they're feeling or thinking. On the surface, they might be making small talk or joking around, but beneath the words they're angry, frustrated, vengeful...

Lastly, the issues the play deals with are close to every audience's home. I mean, the subject matter is all the doubts, worries, insecurities, jealousies, and ecstasies of relationships -- everyone will find something in here that they relate to, that's painful or touching because it's so true. The play takes the most personal, meaningful issues, and it handles them with sensitivity, in all their complexity.

Harold Pinter's website is [...]
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Pinter's strongest plays, betrayal in all its forms, December 15, 2002
By 
Christopher Culver (Cluj-Napoca, Romania or Helsinki, Finland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Betrayal (Paperback)
One of Harold Pinter's most ambitious undertakings, his 1978 play BETRAYAL ranks among his finest works. Often called a sly comedy of sexual manners, BETRAYAL encompasses much more than just adultery.
BETRAYAL has only three main characters (plus a waiter in a single scene). There is Jerry and Emma, who years before had an affair, and Emma's husband Robert, who happens to be Jerry's best friend and business partner. Pinter ingeniously has the play occur in reverse chronological order, so that it begins with a meeting between Jerry and Emma in 1977, years after their affair, and it ends with a shocking scene from 1968. The ending gives BETRAYAL a great deal of reread value, as one can go back through the play and apply the secret revealed in its final moments.
While adultery is the most evident theme of the play, it is about other forms of betrayal: how we betray our friends, betray our spouses by permitting them to break the bonds of marriage, and how our words and actions betray the secrets we strive to hide. Pinter's usual theme of the unknowability of our lifelong partners is even more strongly shown here than in other plays.
BETRAYAL is an excellent play for anyone who likes the work of Harold Pinter. Even if you became interested in the playwright's work through his late political plays like "The New World Order" and "Party Time", this more "traditional" work will excite.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost too convincing, August 26, 2001
By 
David Burland (Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Betrayal (Paperback)
This play by Harold Pinter is about a three characters who are all cheating on each other. The most interesting aspect of this play is Pinter's technique of telling the story backwards. The audience comes in at the end of the affair. From that point the story basically proceeds back through time. The only problem I have with this play is that I don't like any of the characters. Jerry and Emma seem sleazy, and Robert is just a jerk. It makes it difficult to feel anything for the characters. This definitely does not ruin the play however. If you notice this playing at your local theatre, find time to go; you will have a great time.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing play with a great plot!, August 20, 1999
This review is from: Betrayal. (Paperback)
This play is the first thing I ever read by Pinter, and I absolutely fell in love with it. It is such a great story and I don't know whether I would rather act in it or direct it. The dialogue is so realistic,, and I love the way the story starts at the end of the relationship and goes all the wy back to the very beginning. I thought this was a really unique way to tell the story. I recommend this play very highly!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Short, somewhat cryptic scenes from a marriage., August 16, 2009
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This review is from: Betrayal (Paperback)
This is a play about three people - Jerry, Robert and Emma. Emma's married to Robert but has a long affair with Jerry. They are sophisticated, upper class, white people in England in the 1970's. The play is about Jerry's hooking up with Emma over a period of years, the fact of Robert finding out, and the ending of their marriage, for possibly unrelated reasons, some time later. Oh yeah, and it's told in reverse chronological order.

It's a spare play. I don't know if I'd call it minimalist. There are only three characters, aside from a waiter. The don't do a whole lot. The dialogue has the patented Pinter style, like a tennis ball going from side to side without ever hitting the ground:

Jerry - What do you want to do then?
PAUSE
Emma - I don't know what we are doing, any more, that's all.
Jerry - Mmnn.
PAUSE
Emma - Can you actually remember when we were last here?
Jerry - In the summer was it?
Emma - Well, was it?
Jerry - I know it seems -
Emma - It was the beginning of September.
...

It's 138 pages of that.

Pinter's won the Nobel prize and he's one of the most influential playwrights of the late 20th century and this is considered one of his greatest achievements. IMHO though, I found it lifeless, and the reverse chronological plot gimmicky.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bingo, July 27, 2008
This review is from: Betrayal (Paperback)
Sometimes you hit a triple but everyone remembers it as a homer. Pinter has this sort of luck. "Betrayal" is a good play, don't get me wrong. It is somewhat worrying to me that theatre-goers see this as a great play. Great? To be compared to, say, "Hamlet"? It's a good play. The backward plot device is clever and useful and fun. It's delicious in that the betrayal is all done in that wonderful English fashion of brittle humor, lots of contained pain, and no passion. It's all done in exquisitely good taste. Razor burns, not gouged eye-balls. Pinter, who began his career putting the lower-middle class on stage, with their "cuppa" teas and bad breath, has moved here into the upper-middle class, with their Italian wines and weekends to France. Pinter is one of the most upwardly mobile playwrights in theater history. Refinement is as worthy a subject, surely, as degradation, he seems to be saying and, by golly, I guess he's right.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars crisp and magical, September 10, 2010
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This review is from: Betrayal (Paperback)
it was the first work by Harold Pinter that i read. true to his name Pinter creates puny silences and vivid pauses that say more about their characters and their inner drama than the words they utter. Pinter taeches no moral lesson. He only presents the inner turmoil, the utter helplessness , and the void inside his characters. for its literary merits the work can just be called PINTERESQUE.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Play!, June 12, 2011
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This review is from: Betrayal: A Play (Paperback)
Seriously, if your interested in Pinter style, this is a good place to start. This play got me interested in the Pinter acting style. Enjoy. <3
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3.0 out of 5 stars 3 person love triangle, June 14, 2014
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This review is from: Betrayal (Paperback)
I read this in anticipation for seeing the sage show in NYC casting Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz. Unfortunately the play doesn't highlight much talent or sensational storyline but it could pass as true to life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Staying on Script, May 22, 2014
By 
not a natural "Bob Bickel" (huntington, west virginia United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Betrayal. (Paperback)
I don't know if Harold Pinter shared the now-fashionable view that grand narratives are passe'. Having read his play Betrayal, however, I'm sure he recognized that scripted relationships are with us for the duration; they are the social foundation of everyday life. Insofar as there are social systems with spoken and unspoken rules, they will manifest themselves in predictable ways at various levels. Some of their msnifestations may be commonly regarded as socially and morally legitimate, some may be commonly regarded as socially and morally divisive.

However, the key word is "commonly." Whatever the nature of knee-jerk, everyday judgments, the social world is constituted of departures from the straight and narrow in much the same way that it relies on conformity to lip-service norms and their official ceremonial and documentary validation. The departures are as predictably scripted as their ostensibly favored alternatives.

Thus there are roles to play in an extra-marital affair. Though they are not explicitly taught, participants immediately know them at least as well as they know the roles that define a marriage. The alternative roles, in fact, may be known better, because the adverse consequences of role failure are construed as worse than just mistakes. They reveal serious moral lapses that threaten the integrity and sacred durability of the set of circumstances they were thought to undergird.

In Betrayal, Jerry and Emma know the rules of an affair as well as anyone, and it seemed that both adhered to them with great care. Looking back, we may have found ourselves interpreting their exchanges with Robert, Emma's husband and father of her children, as fashioned to meet the affair's need for secrecy. We imagined that Jerry engaged Robert, whom he called his best friend, with trepidation and guilt. It's just commonsense. And the same applied to Emma's relationship with her husband.

We subsequently learn, however, that Emma has long since breached the taken-for-granted rule of secrecy that suffuses the script. Perhaps this was prompted by Jerry's naivete', recklessness, bumbling, or pride. Whatever the reason, the past for Jerry is now cast in a very different light. Both Emma and Robert cannot help but know this. Are Jerry and Robert really best friends? Does Jerry's wife know of the affair? Do any of either couple's children? What is the meaning for Emma and Robert's marriage.

When a social relationship runs its scripted course, the results are predictable and interpretable. We see this in Jerry's diminished enthusiasm over the years of the affair and to the present day. Commonsense and its constraints may be ridiculed as unnecessary, forestalling satisfying possibilities, needless fetters that could easily and profitably be case aside, made of things that need not happen. However, commonsense in scripted form shows us how to get through the day. When role players take a step away from scripted prescriptions, away from what we know commonsensically to be true, their world becomes unduly complex, subject to alarming interpretations that may or may not be accurate. Personal histories are rewritten in ways we may not be able to foresee or to tolerate.

Betrayal is a play that makes use of taken-for-granted commonsense knowledge and shows us how it shapes our behavior. It is also an experiment, something like the breaching experiments used by Harold Garfinkel in his sociological classic Studies in Ethnomethodology. When scripts that we unself-consciously know and adhere to are violated, the social world ceases to be readily interpretable and may become painfully uncertain and confusing. Betrayal is an interesting play, innovatively constructed and surprisingly illuminating. It's a strong statement that Pinter understood life.
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Betrayal.
Betrayal. by Harold Pinter (Paperback - October 1, 1980)
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