Yesterday I did another day trip to London to see a Betrayal in the West End (Yup, it’s insane that I can live here, and can afford to make two (advance booked, obvs) first class trips to London to the theatre a month and STILL save money on what I was paying in Brighton for rent.) I admit I booked the ticket as much out of FOMO as anything else: several of my theatre friends had seen it and seeing Tom Hiddleston seemed like the year’s ‘hot ticket’. But in truth, once I booked the ticket, the excitement started to wane: I’m ambivalent about both director Jamie Lloyd and about Pinter, and I’ve already see the play Betrayal (in the same theatre!) and I don’t love it as a play.
So I felt a bit of a fake, sitting in the theatre beside all the superfans in a ‘I guess I bought the ticket so I might as well’ way. (I’m not kidding: the woman next to me was an American who had flown over just to see the play, and had also been at the previous evening’s performance: the two German girls in front of me had done the same). Besides, the ticket had been expensive, so I might as well get the most out of it – nearly 100 quid, although admittedly for a very good seat in the stalls.
In the end, though, I was completely won over by the production. The sparse, stripped back staging really worked, and although the cast all felt too slightly young for the roles of jaded old marrieds who’ve been friends for decades, you could forgive that for strong performances (the tired old trope of comedy foreigner can get in the bin, but at least that was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene). Charlie Cox and Zawe Ashton were both great, but it was Tom Hiddleston who stole the show: he delivered a beautifully nuanced performance that wrung both the humour and the heartbreak out of the piece, and the audience hung on every tiny gesture. (In fact, my main criticism would be that his charisma over-balanced the production: since the three main actors were on stage pretty much non-stop throughout, even when they had no part in a scene, all too often the eye was drawn to Hiddleston, standing stoically in the background, rather than what was happening between the other characters.
On top of it all it was a glorious London day – sunny and bright and full of character. (I popped into the Waterstones on Jermyn Street on the way, being passed by a man strolling through the sunshine yelling into his phone ‘I’m working from home today!’. Are you, my dude? Are you really?). I then strolled up to Liberty and spent far too much money in the stationery department before meeting my friends for drinks at the German Gymnasium.
London is always that dodgy ex who tries to charm you and make you forget all its bad points, and every time I go back it very nearly succeeds, but like your dodgy ex there’s always the warning sign: so my ‘I love London and why did I ever move?’ lasted only until I got to Oxford Circus and the Victoria Line was suspended and so I found myself crammed on a packed tube literally pressed bum-to-bum with a fellow commuter who had strangely and intensely warm buttocks. I mean, seeing Tom Hiddleston on stage was worth that – but only just…