006 – Betrayal, by Harold Pinter
Pinter’s modern classic dissects the dynamics of betrayal in marriage, friendship and work. The ambiguities of the adulterous affair that is the core of the play are made all the more unsettling by the innovative chronology of the narrative: the play famously opens with the end of the affair and works backwards to its inception.
Joining us to mine the depths of Pinter’s compressed masterpiece is Mark Taylor-Batty, senior lecturer in Theatre Studies at the University of Leeds and author of The Theatre of Harold Pinter (Bloomsbury 2014).
Dr. Mark Taylor-Batty
Mark is a senior lecturer in Theatre Studies at Leeds University. His key areas of interest include the career of Harold Pinter, the theatricality of Samuel Beckett, and twentieth-century French and British theatre. He is a co-editor of the Methuen Drama Engage series of books, and most appropriately for our purposes he is the author of two books on Harold Pinter: The Theatre of Harold Pinter (published by Bloomsbury) and About Pinter: The Playwright and The Work (published by Faber and Faber). He is also a Director of the Harold Pinter Society.
If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.
We have footnotes for this episode …
The footnotes to accompany our episode on Betrayal include observations on Joan Bakewell’s version of their affair, why the island of Torcello is the perfect choice for their honeymoon visit, and the society of the 1970s the play is set in.
Suggest a play
We’re always open to suggestions about plays to talk about, so if you’d like us to discuss a favourite of yours, please email us at email@example.com. Let us know why you think we should cover it, and if you know anyone who’d be excited and qualified to talk about it with us (even yourself if modesty permits!).
You might also be interested in …
It is 1789 and a group of convicts in the newly-founded colony of Botany Bay in Australia are assembled to put on a production of George Farquhar’s Restoration Comedy The Recruiting Officer. The true story of this unlikely theatrical enterprise is the subject of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s award-winning play, Our Country’s Good, which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 1988 almost exactly 200 years after the events it portrays. The play is a vivid portrait of the volatile new settlement in New South Wales, which raises timeless questions about what makes for a country’s good: the exercise of justice, the iniquities of class, the value of education and culture, and particularly of the redemptive power of theatre itself.
It made complete logical sense to follow our last episode on The Recruiting Officer with this wonderful play, and even more sense to invite Director Matt Beresford back to talk us through it.
George Farquhar’s rollicking Restoration Comedy The Recruiting Officer is ostensibly a portrait of officers engaged in the nefarious art of impressing men into the army in the country town of Shrewsbury, but it is as much a tale of the local ladies themselves recruiting for lovers and husbands. The classic comic satire of love and war, and sex and deception was first performed at Drury Lane in 1706, and went on to become one of the most frequently performed plays of the 18th century and a staple of education curricula and theatre programming ever since.
Director Matt Beresford joins us to assess the ‘recruiting officers” respective strategies and successes.
Tom Stoppard’s ambitious new play Leopoldstadt is a sweeping work of history and ideas which charts the diaspora and decline of an Austrian Jewish family through the convulsive events of the first half of the twentieth century. It addresses profound moral questions of identity, memory and prejudice that are insistently relevant in our time. It is not only a towering intellectual achievement, it is also very personally poignant because it is based partly on Stoppard’s own remarkable family history.
Leopoldstadt opened in the West End in January 2020, only to be closed prematurely by the pandemic a few weeks later. Happily it has returned to the London stage this Autumn, and I am privileged and delighted to talk in this episode with the director of the London productions, playwright Patrick Marber.
Before the theatres went dark this month I was lucky enough to see Caryl Churchill’s A Number at the Bridge, and spend more than seven hours in thrall to Robert Lepage’s Seven Streams of the River Ota at the National. Plus, some thoughts on what we miss when there is no theatre.
Another great mix of shows this month, from Tom Stoppard’s new play, to Ibsen, Beckett and newer plays in smaller London venues.
The January roundup included both classic plays, such as The Duchess of Malfi, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters, as well as recent musicals Dear Evan Hansen and Girl from the North Country …