The Daily Telegraph
Dame Joan will finally have her say on Pinter’s betrayal – 40 years on
AT THE time it caused quite the scandal: the BBC broadcaster’s love affair with one of the most famous playwrights of the day, splashed across the stage for all to dissect.
Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, which had its premiere in 1978, laid bare the details of his relationship with Joan Bakewell, leaving her hurt, under the glare of gossips and not a little put out that her story was being told without her input.
In keeping with the phrase “revenge is a dish best served cold”, she will next month broadcast her version of events, after rediscovering a play she first drafted 40 years ago. Bakewell, now a Dame, yesterday announced a new 45-minute drama entitled Keeping In Touch, which tells the story covered in Betrayal from a different perspective.
It was first written in the late Seventies, when she picked up her pen as a cathartic response to Pinter’s work, intended for her eyes only and swiftly tucked away in a drawer.
But, as she came to look through her own archive in her 80s, she found the work, and when asked by a radio producer friend if she had any plays in the pipeline, mentioned it to the BBC.
Newly polished, it will be broadcast for the first time on April 22, starring Charlotte Riley as protagonist Rachel, a young wife and mother left feeling “trapped” by the confines of her era.
Baroness Bakewell said: “When he [Pinter] wrote Betrayal in the 1970s, long after the affair was over, I was very shocked and hurt to some extent that he had used so closely the events of our affair.
“In the months that followed, just for my own satisfaction, I wrote a play about the same events and put it away.”
The story uses different characters, with new names and professions – broadcasting rather than publishing – but also details the lives of a young wife, her husband and her lover. “It’s the story of my experience as a woman at that time, trying to make decisions about her life,” she said. “The events run parallel but the characters are different.”
The script remained in her own archives until she began searching through papers 40 years on. “It needed rewriting because it had been written quite skimpily and not groomed for production in any way, because I hadn’t thought it would see the light of day,” she said. “It reminded me that in a sense I’d stuck up for myself.” Keeping In Touch, she hopes, could be heard as a period piece, detailing a different era before mobile phones when would-be lovers had to meet in person or use landlines. Her eight-year relationship with Pinter occurred in the Sixties, while she was married to Michael Bakewell, a radio producer, with a young daughter. Pinter was married to Vivien, an actress.
The play explores the dilemma of a woman marrying young, as Baroness Bakewell did, going on to “feel that it is limiting: she feels trapped”.
The final broadcast, starring Alistair Petrie as Rachel’s husband David, and Colin Morgan as David’s friend Tom, will be broadcast on Radio 4, after an archive recording of Betrayal. “So that people can see on the one hand and on the other,” said Baroness Bakewell.
Keeping In Touch will air on Radio 4 on April 22, at 3.45pm. It forms part of a new season announced by Gwyneth Williams, controller of BBC Radio 4.