Betrayal (play)
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Betrayal Play

Betrayal (1978 theater poster).jpg
NT, poster for the 1998 production directed by Trevor Nunn
Written byHarold Pinter
CharactersEmma, Jerry, Robert, Waiter
Date premiered15 November 1978
Place premieredLyttelton Theatre at the Royal National Theatre, London
Original languageEnglish
Subjectextramarital affair
SettingLondon and Venice
Official site

Betrayal is a play written by Harold Pinter in 1978. Critically regarded as one of the English playwright's major dramatic works, it features his characteristically economical dialogue, characters' hidden emotions and veiled motivations, and their self-absorbed competitive one-upmanship, face-saving, dishonesty, and (self-)deceptions.[1]

Inspired by Pinter's clandestine extramarital affair with BBC Television presenter Joan Bakewell, which spanned seven years, from 1962 to 1969,[2] the plot of Betrayal integrates different permutations of betrayal relating to a seven-year affair involving a married couple, Emma and Robert, and Robert's "close friend" Jerry, who is also married, to a woman named Judith. For five years Jerry and Emma carry on their affair without Robert's knowledge, both cuckolding Robert and betraying Judith, until Emma, without telling Jerry she has done so, admits her infidelity to Robert (in effect, betraying Jerry), although she continues their affair. In 1977, four years after exposing the affair (in 1973) and two years after their subsequent break up (in 1975), Emma meets Jerry to tell him that her marriage to Robert is over. She then lies to Jerry in telling him that, "last night", she had to reveal the truth to Robert and that he now knows of the affair. The truth however, is that Robert has known about the affair for the past four years.

Pinter's particular usage of reverse chronology in structuring the plot is innovative: the first scene takes place after the affair has ended, in 1977; the final scene ends when the affair begins, in 1968; and, in between 1977 and 1968, scenes in two pivotal years (1977 and 1973) move forward chronologically.[3] As Roger Ebert observes, in his review of the 1983 film, based on Pinter's own screenplay, "The Betrayal structure strips away all artifice. In this view, the play shows, heartlessly, that the very capacity for love itself is sometimes based on betraying not only other loved ones, but even ourselves." Still, drawing on the frequently commented influence of Proust's In Search of Lost Time and Pinter's work on 1977's The Proust Screenplay on Betrayal, more emotionally complex interpretations are possible based on a stress on dual motions, one forward in calendar time toward disillusion and one backward toward the redemptive recovery of time, in each work.


London and Venice, from 1968 to 1977 (in reverse chronology).[4]


The years between 1968 and 1977 occur in reverse order; scenes within years 1977 and 1973 move forward.[3]

  • Scene One: Pub. 1977. Spring.
Emma and Jerry meet for the first time in two years. For seven years they had an affair and a secret flat, and Jerry says no one else knew. Now Emma is having an affair with Casey, an author whose agent is Jerry and whose publisher is Robert, Emma's husband. Emma says she found out last night that Robert has betrayed her with other women for years, and admits she revealed her affair with Jerry.
  • Scene Two: Jerry's House. Later the same day.
Jerry meets Robert to talk about the affair. Robert reveals that in fact he learned about it four years ago. Since then their friendship has continued, albeit without playing squash.
  • Scene Three: Flat. 1975. Winter.
It is the end of Jerry and Emma's affair. They rarely meet, and Emma's hopes that the flat would be a different kind of home are unfulfilled. They agree to give it up.
  • Scene Four: Robert and Emma's House. Living room. 1974. Autumn.
Jerry visits Robert and Emma at home. He reveals that Casey has left his wife and is living nearby. Jerry and Robert plan to play squash, but Jerry reveals that first he is visiting New York with Casey.
  • Scene Five: Hotel Room. 1973. Summer.
Robert and Emma are on holiday, intending to visit Torcello tomorrow. Emma is reading a book by Spinks, another author whose agent is Jerry. Robert says he refused to publish it because there is not much more to say about betrayal. Robert has discovered that Emma has received a private letter from Jerry. Emma admits they are having an affair.
  • Scene Six: Flat. 1973. Summer.
Emma has returned from the holiday with Robert in Venice. She has bought a tablecloth for the flat. Jerry reveals that despite the affair he continues to lunch with Robert.
  • Scene Seven: Restaurant. 1973. Summer.
Robert gets drunk over lunch with Jerry. He says he hates modern novels, and that he went to Torcello on his own and read Yeats.
  • Scene Eight: Flat. 1971. Summer.
Emma wants to know whether Jerry's wife suspects his affair, and announces that while Jerry was in America she became pregnant with Robert's child.
  • Scene Nine: Robert and Emma's House. Bedroom. 1968. Winter.
During a party Jerry surprises Emma in her bedroom and declares his love for her. He tells Robert he is his oldest friend as well as his best man.


  • Emma
  • Jerry
  • Robert
  • Waiter

In 1977 Emma is 38, Jerry and Robert are 40. (n. pag. [7])



Betrayal was first produced by the National Theatre in London on 15 June 1978. The original cast featured Penelope Wilton as Emma, Michael Gambon as Jerry, Daniel Massey as Robert, and Artro Morris as the waiter; Wilton and Massey were married at the time. It was designed by John Bury and directed by Peter Hall.

In 1991, Betrayal ran at the Almeida Theatre directed by David Leveaux with Bill Nighy playing Jerry, Martin Shaw playing Robert and Cheryl Campbell playing Emma. The play was revived in the Lyttleton at the National Theatre in November 1998, directed by Trevor Nunn and starring Douglas Hodge, Imogen Stubbs, and Anthony Calf.

In 2003, Peter Hall directed a production of Betrayal at the Duchess Theatre starring Janie Dee, Aden Gillett, and Hugo Speer,

In 2007, Roger Michell staged a revival of Betrayal at the Donmar Warehouse theatre starring Toby Stephens as Jerry, Samuel West as Robert, and Dervla Kirwan as Emma. Pinter reportedly lunched with the actors, attended an early "readthrough" and provided some advice, which, according to Stephens, included the instruction to ignore some of Pinter's famous pauses (Lawson). In 2011, a new West End production at the Comedy Theatre, directed by Ian Rickson, starred Kristin Scott Thomas, Douglas Henshall, and Ben Miles.

In 2019, Jamie Lloyd directed Tom Hiddleston as Robert, Zawe Ashton as Emma and Charlie Cox as Jerry in a revival of the play at The Harold Pinter Theatre.[5][6]


Betrayal was revived at The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield - from 17 May 2012 to 9 June 2012[7] - as the climax of Sheffield Crucible's 40th anniversary season. It starred John Simm as Jerry, Ruth Gemmell as Emma, Colin Tierney as Robert and Thomas Tinker as the waiter.[8]

New York

The play had its American premiere on Broadway on 5 January 1980 at the Trafalgar Theatre where it ran for 170 performances until its close on 31 May 1980. The show was directed by Peter Hall, designed by John Bury, production stage manager Marnel Sumner, stage manager Ian Thomson, press by Seymour Krawitz and Patricia McLean Krawitz. It opened with Raul Julia as Jerry, Blythe Danner as Emma, Roy Scheider as Robert, Ian Thomson as Barman, and Ernesto Gasco as Waiter.

A 2000 Broadway revival was staged at the American Airlines Theatre with Juliette Binoche, Liev Schreiber, and John Slattery.

A 2013 revival starring Daniel Craig as Robert, his real-life wife Rachel Weisz as Emma, and Rafe Spall as Jerry opened on 27 October at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, and set the Broadway record for highest weekly gross the week ending 19 December 2013.[9][10]

The 2019 West End production directed by Jamie Lloyd transferred to Broadway, once again starring Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox. It runs at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, with previews beginning 14 August 2019, and the official opening on 5 September 2019 in a limited run scheduled through 8 December.[11][12]


David Berthold directed a production of Betrayal, designed by Peter England, at the Sydney Theatre Company, from 10 March through 17 April 1999; it starred Paul Goddard, Robert Menzies, and Angie Milliken.[13]

In 2015 State Theatre Company of South Australia and Melbourne Theatre Company staged a production of Betrayal directed by Geordie Brookman and starring Alison Bell.

Hong Kong

In 2004, Theatre de R&D staged Betrayal's Cantonese version as the first production of this theatrical group. With the script translated to Chinese by Lucretia Ho, this production was directed by Yankov Wong, starring Lucretie Ho as Emma, Johnny Tan as Jerry, Karl Lee as Robert, and Kenneth Cheung as the Waiter.

A reader's theatre format of Betrayal was produced by the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre and directed by Yankov Wong on 6 March 2010.

In September 2010, theatrical group We Draman put the show on stage with a translated script by Cancer Chong, featuring renowned stage actress Alice Lau as Emma.


In 1980, director Bill Alexader mounted the play at the Cameri Theatre, Tel Aviv. Translator: Avraham Oz; with Oded Teomi as Jerry, Gita Munte as Emma, Ilan Dar as Robert.


In 2009 Italian actor and director Andrea Renzi brought the play to life in Italy. Famed Italian actress Nicoletta Braschi stars as Emma. Tony Laudadio plays the character of Robert. Enrico Ianniello plays the part of Jerry. Nicola Marchi plays the part of a waiter. The play has been very successful and has been touring in Italy for over two years and will return again in early 2012 with the same cast.


Staged in 2011 in Teatro Español, with Alberto San Juan, Cecilia Solaguren & Will Keen.

Adapted by Pablo Remón and directed by Israel Elejalde, it will be staged in Madrid at the Pavón Teatro Kamikaze from 12/03/2020 to 19/04/2020. Cast TBC.[14]

Buenos Aires

In 2013 director Ciro Zorzoli staged the play in Picadero theatre. The characters were played by Paola Krum (Emma), Daniel Hendler (Jerry), Diego Velázquez (Robert) and Gabriel Urbani (Waiter).


Translated by Haluk Bilginer in Turkish and for the first time in Turkey in 1990-1991 season, it was staged at Taksim Theatre [tr] as the production of Theater Studio by Ahmet Levendo?lu.

It was staged by Nilüfer Sanat Theater during 2007-2008 season.

In the 2016-2017 season, it was started to be staged by the management of Ahmet Levendo?lu again at IMM City Theaters. The characters were played by ?ebnem Köstem (Emma), Gökçer Genç (Jerry), Burak Davuto?lu (Robert) and Direnç Dedeo?lu (Waiter).


Pinter adapted Betrayal as a screenplay for the 1983 film directed by David Jones, starring Jeremy Irons (Jerry), Ben Kingsley (Robert), and Patricia Hodge (Emma).

Autobiographical inspiration

Betrayal was inspired by Pinter's seven-year affair with television presenter Joan Bakewell, who was married to the producer and director Michael Bakewell, while Pinter was married to actress Vivien Merchant.[15][16] The affair was known in some circles; when Betrayal premiered in 1978, Lord Longford (father of Antonia Fraser), who was in the audience, commented that Emma appeared to be based on Joan Bakewell;[17] but the affair only became public knowledge after it was confirmed by Pinter in Michael Billington's 1996 authorised biography,[15] and further confirmed in Joan Bakewell's later memoir The Centre of the Bed.[16]

Pinter wrote the play while engaged in another long-running affair, this time with Antonia Fraser, which became a marriage in 1980 after he divorced Merchant. However, Pinter explained to Billington that although he wrote the play while "otherwise engaged" with Fraser, the details were based on his relationship with Bakewell.[18]

Cultural allusions

"The Betrayal" (1997), episode 8 of the 9th (final) season of the NBC Television series Seinfeld (Sony Pictures), alludes overtly to Pinter's play and film Betrayal, which appears to have inspired it. Apart from the title, "The Betrayal", and the name of one-off character Pinter Ranawat who appears in the episode, the episode is structured and runs in reverse chronological order and also features love triangles as one of its central themes. According to Kent Yoder, all of these allusions were deliberate.[19]

In 2017 a play first written by Bakewell in 1978 in response to Betrayal, entitled Keeping in Touch, was premiered on BBC Radio 4.[20]

Awards and nominations

  • 1979 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play
  • 1980 Tony Award, Best Actress In A Play, Blythe Danner (nomination)[21]
  • 1980 Tony Award, Best Direction Of A Play, Peter Hall (nomination)
  • 1980 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Actress In A Play, Danner (nomination)
  • 2001 Tony Award, Best Revival Of A Play (nomination)
  • 2001 Tony Award, Best Actress In A Play, Juliette Binoche (nomination)
  • 2001 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Revival Of A Play (nomination)
  • 2001 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Actor In A Play, Liev Schreiber (nomination)
  • 2019 Evening Standard Theatre Award, Best Actor, Tom Hiddleston (nomination)
  • 2020 WhatsOnStage Award, Best Actor, Tom Hiddleston (nomination)


  1. ^ Billington 257-67; cf. performance review by Bryden 204-06 and review essay by Merritt 192-99; see also film reviews by Canby and Ebert.
  2. ^ Billington 257-58, 264-67; cf. the memoir by Bakewell, which includes two chapters on her relationship and affair with Pinter.
  3. ^ a b For an analysis of the plot structure, see Quigley 230-31.
  4. ^ Pinter specifies the location in the stage directions describing each scene, as given in the plot summary. According to his initialed note on the same page, "Betrayal can be performed without an interval, or with an interval after Scene Four" (n. pag. [7]).
  5. ^ Brown, Mark (15 November 2018). "Tom Hiddleston to star in stage production of Pinter's Betrayal". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019.
  6. ^ "Zawe Ashton & Charlie Cox to Join Tom Hiddleston in West End Staging of Betrayal". Retrieved 2019.
  7. ^ Deller, Ruth (22 May 2012). "BWW Reviews: Betrayal, Crucible Theatre, May 22 2012".
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 2019.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 September 2013. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (31 December 2013). "Mike Nichols' 'Betrayal' Revival With Daniel Craig And Rachel Weisz Sets Broadway Weekly Gross Record". Deadline. Retrieved 2019.
  11. ^ Lang, Brent (27 June 2019). "Tom Hiddleston Making Broadway Debut With 'Betrayal'". Variety. Retrieved 2019.
  12. ^ Hetrick, Adam (5 September 2019). "Read Reviews for Broadway Revival of Betrayal, Starring Zawe Ashton, Charlie Cox, and Tom Hiddleston". Playbill. Retrieved 2019.
  13. ^ "Betrayal: Sydney Theatre Company, Australia, 10 March - 17 April 1999",, Harold Pinter, 2000-[2009]. 7 February 2009.
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b Michael Billington, Harold Pinter, rev. and expanded ed. (1996; London: Faber and Faber, 2007) 264-67.
  16. ^ a b Joan Bakewell, The Centre of the Bed (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2003). ISBN 0-340-82310-0. (Two chapters deal with the relationship and affair with Pinter.)
  17. ^ An affair to remember, Daily Telegraph, 7 October 2003
  18. ^ (Billington 264-67)
  19. ^ The Betrayal - Seinfeld Episode Guide, Retrieved 7 April 2011
  20. ^ "Keeping in Touch, Drama - BBC Radio 4". BBC.
  21. ^ "Betrayal Awards, 1980", accessed 6 September 2019

Works cited

"The Betrayal". Episode Guide for Seinfeld. Sony Pictures, 2009. World Wide Web. 11 March 2009. (Includes a video clip.)

Bakewell, Joan. The Centre of the Bed. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2003. ISBN 0-340-82310-0 (10). ISBN 978-0-340-82310-1 (13). Print.

Billington, Michael. Harold Pinter. Rev. and expanded ed. 1996. London: Faber and Faber, 2007. Print.

Bryden, Mary. Rev. of Betrayal (One from the Heart at The Camberley Theatre, February 2002). 204-06 in "The Caretaker and Betrayal. The Pinter Review: Collected Essays 2003 and 2004. Ed. Francis Gillen and Steven H. Gale. Tampa: U of Tampa P, 2004. 202-06. ISBN 1-879852-17-9 (10). ISBN 978-1-879852-17-4 (13). Print.

Canby, Vincent. "Movie Review: Betrayal (1983): Pinter's 'Betrayal,' Directed by David Jones". New York Times, Movies. New York Times Company, 20 February 1983. Web. 11 March 2009.

Ebert, Roger. "Movies: 'Betrayal' ". Chicago Sun-Times 18 March 1983., 2009. Web. 11 March 2009.

Lawson, Mark. "Prodigal Son". Guardian Media Group, 31 May 2007. Web. 11 March 2009.

Merritt, Susan Hollis. "Betrayal in Denver" (Denver Center Theatre Company, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver, CO. 29 May 2002). The Pinter Review: Collected Essays 2003 and 2004. Ed. Francis Gillen and Steven H. Gale. Tampa: U of Tampa P, 2004. 187-201. ISBN 1-879852-17-9 (10). ISBN 978-1-879852-17-4 (13). Print.

Pinter, Harold. Betrayal. 1978. New York: Grove Press, 1979. ISBN 0-394-50525-5 (10). ISBN 978-0-394-50525-1 (13). ISBN 0-394-17084-9 (10). ISBN 978-0-394-17084-8 (13). Print. (Parenthetical references in the text are to this edition, ISBN 0-394-17084-9. Pinter indicates pauses by three spaced dots of ellipsis; editorial ellipses herein are unspaced and within brackets.)

Quigley, Austin E.. "Pinter: Betrayal". Chapter 11 of The Modern Stage and Other Worlds. New York: Methuen, 1985. 221-52. ISBN 0-416-39320-9 (10). ISBN 978-0-416-39320-0 (13). Print. Chapter 11: "Pinter: Betrayal" in Limited preview at Google Books (omits some pages). Web. 11 March 2009.

External links

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