Tom Hiddleston’s performance on stage in ‘Betrayal’ was savaged by one critic

Tom Hiddelstone and Zawe Ashton leaving The Harold Pinter Theatre

I forgot that Tom Hiddleston is doing a play right now. Opening night on Betrayal was last week, and the play runs through June 1st. Tom has been so quiet now for months, and I’m not even aware of him doing much – if any? – press around this play. Like, are there any interviews? Did he do anything other than walk his dog and get pap’d?

Anyway, I came across these photos of Tom exiting the theatre and look, they set up barricades and Tom happily posed with some fans, how nice. But just FYI – whenever Benedict Cumberbatch did a play, every night there were hundreds of people waiting for him at the stage door. Tom looks like he maybe gets a dozen. Plus, it looks like this play isn’t great? The Spectator ran an absolutely savage review, the title of which is “Watch Tom Hiddleston ruin Pinter’s finest play.” There are complaints about the weird staging and lighting choices. But the Spectator saves the worst criticisms for the cast:

This is Pinter’s finest work, a tense romantic tragedy with flashes of comic fireworks, and it differs from the rest of his output by revealing its themes directly to the audience, by delivering an intelligible plot full of suspense and surprises, by focusing relentlessly on the human duel at its core, and by never relapsing into obscurities or screeds of reminiscence spoken by dotty vagabonds. Every syllable contributes to the whole, and a successful version can throw a spell over an audience like a session of hypnosis.

The casting in Jamie Lloyd’s production is less than ideal. Charlie Cox, with his choirboy cheeks and starter beard, seems far too nice to play the hotshot literary agent Jerry, who casually seduces other men’s wives while brokering movie deals in London and New York. He looks like an oboe teacher. Robert is played by Tom Hiddleston whose abiding characteristic, as usual, is a pained vacancy. He has the air of Errol Flynn’s not-so-handsome cousin hired to do a spot of modelling. He saunters through the role with his limbs nicely displayed in expensive togs but he can’t find the outrage, the boiling hurt, the stifled aggression of the dethroned lover. He even misses the right notes in the famous confession scene (‘the Italians… in their laughing Mediterranean way’) where his wife admits to years of infidelity. This is Pinter’s writing at its most exquisite, but Hiddleston delivers the lines in a tone of injured puzzlement as if recalling an iffy penalty decision during Arsenal’s last away game.

[From The Spectator]

“…Tom Hiddleston whose abiding characteristic, as usual, is a pained vacancy.” OUCH. “Errol Flynn’s not-so-handsome cousin hired to do a spot of modelling.” WOOF. “Hiddleston delivers the lines in a tone of injured puzzlement as if recalling an iffy penalty decision during Arsenal’s last away game.” OMG. I probably got more enjoyment out of this review than people got from actually going to the play.

Update: Oh, Dragonflies, I apologize. I really couldn’t find a story to go with these photos and so I latched onto this recent review. My bad.

Tom Hiddleston and Zawe Ashton greeted by adoring fans as they left the Harold Pinter Theatre

Photos courtesy of Backgrid.

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81 Responses to “Tom Hiddleston’s performance on stage in ‘Betrayal’ was savaged by one critic”

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  1. Sash says:

    He’s honestly one of the most overrated actors that people try to keep making a thing.

  2. Isa says:

    Hes always been overrated imo. Never been incredibly impressed by him. Cumberbatch isn’t my favourite either but I can see that he has something.

    On another note I always found it interesting that so many Americans are fawning over über privilege British white actors like the two of them and admire that whole British upper class vibe but are so quick to attack (white) privilege in their own country. Cumberbatch and hiddleston are part of the same system that produced Kushner, o’rouke, Paltrow etc..

    • joe dokes says:

      Unlike people of color who have lifted themselves up from nothing like Rashida Jones and John David Washington?

      • Sash says:

        Congratulations, you’ve named two black entertainers in a handful of POC examples of Hollywood nepotism. Shall we list the phonebook of white beneficiaries of nepotism?

      • Valiantly Varnished says:

        The fact that you can only name TWO POC as examples doesn’t help your argument.

    • StableGenius says:

      You including Beto O’Rourke is a joke. Huge, HUGE difference between Kushner, Goop and Beto. But carry on…

      • Isa says:

        Not really. Beto grew up in a wealthy well connected political family. Went to a fancy boarding school out of state, his father got him out of trouble when he got arrested repeatedly. Married the daughter of a billionaire who was a family friend. His father in law sponsored his first run for office etc .

    • Andrea says:

      There is a certain integrity and honor Brits come across as having that Americans sometimes lack. As an American now living in Canada, I have always exclusively had British celeb crushes.

    • Veronica S. says:

      There’s a certain level of bizarre Anglophilia that exists in certain strains of American public. They really buy into that “proper” image of classic gentility. It’s the same racial cultural bias at play, just with a level of fetishism attached.

      • Andrea says:

        I grew up with lying parents who encouraged me to do so growing up all the time. I’d adore someone who is honest, truthful, and has some kind of moral compass. I don’t think That’s me fetishizing anything.

  3. Mumbles says:

    This guy lost me with the “I Heart TS” shirt. Also his Emmy acceptance speech for The Night Manager was so tone-deaf (saying how real aid workers loved it). Looking back and realizing the talent he was with in that, I now wonder if they were kind of carrying him.

  4. Owch. I think he’s a big Pinter fan IRL (as in, in addition to being in this play), so this criticism is gonna sting a bit…

    • Leena says:

      Given just about every other review is great I doubt he will be much bothered by this particuarly spiteful one

  5. Shan says:

    Uh… you only referenced one critic.

    The Guardian, The Independent, the Evening Standard, and the Telegraph all liked his performance during previews, so I’ll take this review with a grain of salt.

  6. Justme says:

    His performance was savaged by ONE critic – the guy from the Spectator. Every other critic has been giving him rave reviews. Don’t believe me – read them here:

    Here is a snippit from the Telegraph: “Hiddleston has got the theatrical acting chops to head up there among the greats. ” The Guardian: “Hiddleston, especially, is superb in conveying Robert’s unhealed emotional wounds.” The Independent: ” In a modern classic, the actor shows off, to my mind, his classical theatre chops too. His range is beginning to look pretty limitless” The Evening Standard: “But it’s Hiddleston’s poise and sensitivity that impress the most” The Arts Desk: “Hiddleston has the great actor’s gift of stillness; when Robert learns of the affair, he doesn’t rage, but tears glitter in his eyes and gradually spill down his cheeks, unchecked vulnerability springing forth from this coolly controlled man. It’s extraordinary to witness.”

    And so on — the Spectator review is a total outlier. And since you tend to dislike all Conservatives, I might mention that it is a Conservative magazine.

  7. Lala11_7 says:

    It’s so funny…I watched the Thor movies again this weekend…(I blame Captain Marvel and the Avenger trailer…and also…I just flat out enjoy the movies) and I don’t think that Tom is an overrated actor…he can ACT…I just don’t particular like many of the roles he has played outside of MCU….

    But honestly…I’m looking at the WHOLE CAST for that play…and I’m….a…tiny…bit…confused…cause…like….


    • Justme says:

      I don’t know about that: Emma’s age runs from 31-38 (Zawe is 34 will be 35 this year) Jerry’s age runs from 34-41 (Charlie is 37) Robert’s age runs from 34-40 (Tom is 38) They seem to fit the age range pretty well.

    • phaedra7 says:

      IMPO, Hiddles performed very well in Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive”. This film was also a Cannes Award Winner.

  8. Lightpurple says:

    The Guardian, the Evening Standard, Variety, and everything else not the Daily Mail and this guy have given the play and his performance great reviews.

    Unlike the Cumberbatch Hamlet stage door craziness, the Pinter theater has limited stage door access. Tickets for that night’s performance must be shown for entry into the area, the actors are time limited, and people are told that they are too far back in line to actually get to the front before the actors leave.

    ETA most of the early promotion for the play has focused on Zawe Ashton and a Guardian fashion spread. He did some BBC Radio interviews yesterday.

  9. Kathy says:

    Uh, the Spectator isn’t a serious theatre-reviewing publication. Hiddles has been getting glowing reviews from every serious theatre critic – even those who disliked the production praised his performance in it. And the signing queues at stage door have been wrapping all the way around the block.

  10. OG Cleo says:

    You only included one reference, which is actually the only negative review I can find? But hey, this headline will probably get a lot of clicks… 🤷🏻‍♀️

    • jammypants says:

      It’s always the one negative one that gets attention 🤷🏻‍♀️ All the others are 4-5 stars

  11. Justme says:

    Yeah – from what I’ve been reading in the reviews, he’s the toast of the West End! Here’s a typical comment: “It is a superbly judged performance and if Hiddleston isn’t considered for an award, he’ll have the right to feel slightly betrayed.” (Metro)

  12. ds says:

    Gosh celebrity life is like Project Runway – one day you’re in and the next day you’re out. I remember when Amber Heard showed up on the celeb blogs and everyone was like she’s so pretty and talented and pretty… then she started seeing Depp and became a bimbo. Then she went through shit in that relationship and became someone everyone supported. Now it’s between she’s talented and pretty or she sucks. That’s just one example. Hiddles was popular and talented and now he sucks because of Taylor Swift? Stupid on his behalf but I do think he’s a good actor and I read more reviews and found them to be complimentary. I just don’t get this. He fine. Hope he does well in future. He’s a bit thirsty but why not? Everyone in this business is, at least he doesn’t act like he’s not.

  13. Adrien says:

    He has talent. My problem with Hiddles is that he is easily upstaged by his leading ladies. He shines in Thor because he has no love interest. I forgot he was even in Crimson Peak and Charlie Hunnam’s brief role was more memorable.

    • Veronica S. says:

      In fairness, I thought his character was meant to be somewhat negligible by design in Crimson Peak. His sister’s domineering and abusive personality had crushed him emotionally and psychologically, so his presence came across as tentative and meek outside of the charismatic facade he put on. Falling in love with Edith and trying to save her is his major act of rebellion and his only real moment of character development. Edith and Lucille are the true drivers of the story, women with power, intent, and desire.

      • Lightpurple says:

        Crimson Peak is a battle between Mia’s Edith and Jessica’s Lucille. It somehow gets lost that the relationship between Lucille and Thomas wasn’t just incest but that she was a predator, who, in addition to killing everyone she met, had been sexually grooming him since infancy. The men in that were all supporting characters.

  14. Nanea says:

    I saw Betrayal on Saturday, with my husband and our 19 year old twins. It was excellent. Hiddles – and Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox – were superb, and the minimalistic stage, together with the lighting, made people actually concentrate on Pinter’s text and the acting.

    Hiddles has a great range, and I don’t think he needs to do much in terms of PR to promote an already sold-out run, even less so after the overwhelming majority of critics rightfully praised especially his nuanced acting. The only papers to pan him were the Daily Heil, which was to be expected, and the Spectator – and a few disgruntled female stans.

    The stage door has a very limited access that was restricted even further after the first few, apparently chaotic, nights – and the actors stay for ~10 minutes for pics and autographs.

    I don’t get how people can’t let go of the Comedy of Errors, aka the Apocalypse of 2016, in the age of #MeToo, and xenophobia, and racism – and how they still let those few weeks cloud their perception of his craft. It’s not like Hiddles committed a felony by dating a snake.

    • Fanny says:

      I can’t take him seriously after the Taylor Swift episode, but it’s not because my perception of his craft is clouded. His acting has always been good, but not great. Prior to Taylor Swift, I was willing to pretend as if his acting was better than it was because I liked the other things he had going for him.

      Now…I think he looks good with the long hair. I’m sure he can do a competent job onstage in most things, including Betrayal. If he’s ever in a movie I want to see, I’d probably enjoy his performance well enough despite all of the personal baggage I see whenever I look at him. But I would no longer go out of my way to see him in anything.

    • Lightpurple says:

      Glad you got to enjoy it and I agree wholeheartedly with you on your other excellent points.

    • Sue says:

      Charlie Cox and Tom Hiddleston in a play, I wish I could see this! I’ve seen Tom in Midnight in Paris and The Night Manager which I thought was very good. I Saw the Light was so-so but his accent was good. What a shame many can’t forget the TS tee and short romance. But the bad review has negatives about his looks?! I did see other complimentary reviews. And will get around to Thor movies, I’ve only seen the first Iron Man 😏

  15. Lightpurple says:

    Kaiser: thanks for the update. Most of the reviews came out a week ago and they were extremely positive.

  16. Meganbot2000 says:

    There are hundreds of fans queuing at stage door every night. I have to walk by the theatre to get home from work and the stage show I’m currently working on finishes around the same time, so I’m often walking down Oxendon Street while the hoardes are lining up and it’s a complete mob scene every night. (I saw all seven of the previous plays in the Pinter season and none of them had barricades or security at stage door.)

    Tom and the cast have done some promo here and the reviews have been 99% positive. I saw Betrayal during previews then was invited to attend press night (comps) and while I haven’t seen Tom’s movies (only the Night Manager) I thought he did a very credible job. I don’t stan him but it feels a bit mean-spirited to single out the one bad review (especially when it’s not even from one of the major theatre critics) and to act like he has hardly any fans showing up, when that’s clearly not the case.

  17. Veronica S. says:

    Sounds more like this guy was upset about the presentation of his favorite play than anything the cast specifically did. *shrug* I’ve seen enough films with Hiddleston to think he’s a good actor, but they can’t all be winners or please everyone.

    • North of Boston says:


      Not every project is going to be to everyone’s taste. But I’ve seen enough of his performances to see that he’s a talented actor. There may have been something where I thought “Oh, the director had something particular in mind…that…didn’t quite work?” but it was a case where other actors in the same piece didn’t quite gel, so I never thought it was a TH thing.
      Also, at the top of the post with the handful of fans waiting at the door, I thought “no way are those the only people there” Hiddleswift whatever and TH’s media/press radio silence whatever, but there is no way the umtpy-gazillion people I’ve seen really into his work have simply evaporated…and in London no less. I figured either it was a shot framed to show the fewest # of people possible, or that that location funneled people in and out.
      Seeing the street pics in other links makes so much more sense.

      I think he is shifting gears a bit, careerwise. And that’s a good thing IMO. He’s got some money in the bank from Marvel, and the streaming series probably is adding to that, so he can pick and choose, do some stage work, do some independent films and smaller projects and take time to recharge his batteries without having to be out selling and chatting to media all the time. It will be interesting to see how he evolves in the next 5 – 10 years, but I think he’s got staying power to be kicking around for a good long while, doing some interesting work and some projects that make us say “huh?”

  18. spidee!!! says:

    Actually, here in the uk he has generally been getting rave reviews for his performance in a play that was eagerly looked forward too for months.

  19. Hmmm says:

    So why don’t we like this guy again? After the Taylor Swift stuff he went back to being pretty private. He’s seems decent enough.

    • Lightpurple says:

      Prior to the Swift thing, the reason for dislike had something to do with endless comparisons to Cumberbatch. Those of us who like LEGS and weren’t interested in Cumberbatch never understood it.

      • jammypants says:

        Yea it was more a rivalry that started the whole thirst narrative. A lot of projection! The world can handle two Brit white thesps who love theatre with indie cred.

    • Fanny says:

      For me, it’s also about the aftermath of the Taylor Swift debacle…The exposed thirstiness, the embarrassing Golden Globes speech, the oblivious GQ interview. He’s not the erudite, debonair Brit I wanted him to be. Instead, he’s a little bit of a shmuck. Erudite, sure. But still kind of a shmuck.

      I do feel a little bad for him, but in the way you feel a little sorry for an ex you are never going to get back together with. He’s just not offering anything in the acting or celebrity department that there aren’t dozens of other Brits who haven’t worn “I Heart TS” shirts in public can pull off better.

      • Amanda says:

        That’s probably your own fault for projecting a stereotypical image onto him. He doesn’t have to be who you want him to be. He can date who he wants and do what he wants, don’t make it seem like it’s his fault you expected something else.

  20. Totally Old says:

    His thirstiness was off the charts prior to TS thing. He seems to have been able to a bit less over “enthusiastic” since then and therefore less noticable. But, I still can’t see the appeal for the life of me. He really is the not so handsome cousin.

  21. KatMatz says:

    I saw “Betrayal” last week and it was excellent. This is one person’s review. There were many positive reviews. I thought the play was haunting and very well done. I have seen it before (with Daniel Craig and Rachel Weiz) and I thought this version was by far the superior. I don’t know why people hate on TH so much. I think he’s a fine actor. It must be about TS, which I am sure he regrets.

    • delphi says:

      I’m just sitting here, Pinter fangirl that I am (and I was actually Emma in my university’s production of this play…my only on-stage work) thinking back on the fact that Robert is an emotionally repressed, rigid, bland-potato kind of guy who worries far too much about outward appearances to notice his wife’s emotional misery and his best friend’s nefarious ways. Sooooo…this critic’s gripes with Hiddles performance seem pretty appropriate for the portrayal of the character.

      God, I freaking love this play so hard.

      • KatMatz says:

        Well then, see Tom Hiddleston’s performance if you can. He plays an emotionally repressed, vain, rigid and also abusive guy. He’s totally self obsessed and completely unaware of Emma’s unhappiness and his best friend’s betrayal. Or is he? I think you’d like the performances, honestly, especially if you like Pinter. It was well done.

  22. Littlefishmom says:

    Know nothing about this guy except that he needs a haircut and a shave. Yuck.

    • Shan says:

      Given that this article is about the fact he’s currently in a play, it’s reasonable to assume both the hairstyle and the facial hair were conscious decisions made for the role.

      • Littlefishmom says:

        Ok I’ll give him that. I suggest the haircut and shave immediately following the last curtain call.

      • Lightpurple says:

        Since he’s probably going straight into production for the Loki series, and Loki does not have a beard, the shave will probably happen very soon after the last performance.

  23. nono says:

    This huge queue is every day (even 2 times a day). It doesn’t looks like dozen of people. Rather hundreds 🙂 Few times they were waiting in a rain for Hiddles. Not bad as for a horrible actor and a play right? 🙂

  24. so cool says:

    Also Spectator – right-wing political magazine, who loves Brexit and Trump. I wouldn’t take this review seriously. This guy who wrote it is a laughing stock in theater world. He always hate what others love. It gives him clicks.

  25. Jesus says:

    I’m sorry this is really funny to me… Im sorry. I dont even stan hiddles but good god, im glad ppl are defending him here. Lmao. You thought hbnaammqnsjqmq you deserved it bby!!!

  26. EnnuiAreTheChampions says:

    Thanks to all the commenters for correcting the record!

  27. no no says:

    – his play is sold out
    – there are so many people from USA, Asia etc. who came to see this play
    – pleople who wathced it, loves it.
    – it has only good reviews (besides this one). All top critics gave 4 or 5 stars. They rave about Hiddles performance. Some predicte awards for him. Guardian, Variety, Independent, THR, FT, Times, all mayor theater critics loves it and his performance.
    – that every day (even for mantise) there are huge queue fans who wants to take photo.

  28. SpilldatT says:

    Hiddles is a really good actor. Watch him in the Hallow Crown.

    And Loki was far, far, far more interesting than Hemsworth in all of Thor’s outings, bar the 3rd stand alone Thor movie, which was the result of Waititi going bonkers with the movie. Hemsworth isn’t bad, he is better in comedic stuff, but honestly Hiddles is better.

    Just watch the play on his face when Thor & Loki talk in the elevator in Ragnarok and see how much he conveys with his eyes.

    So this one bad review is nothing.

    I love Hiddles, I do wish he did something more worthy film-wise other than just being Loki, he can really act extremely well.

    • Jerusha says:

      The Deep Blue Sea, The Hollow Crown, Only Lovers Left Alive, I Saw the Light, The Night Manager. Excellent in all of them.

  29. The Recluse says:

    Hiddleston was good in the Coriolanus production they broadcasted to theaters. With the right project, he can do wonderful things.

  30. Lightpurple says:

    The production of Betrayal at the Pinter has been extended. That doesn’t happen if a play is a flop. I’m hoping for a NT Live broadcast

    • Nanea says:

      There was something on NTLive’s Twitter the other day that they’re not planning on doing that, sadly… 🙁

    • An says:

      Not a flop at all, it sold well. It’s not sold out though, I can still get tix for even March dates on the Pinter website itself and via reseller blocks.

      IA most reviews praised Tom, even if they didn’t love the play.

    • phaedra7 says:

      Tom’s other recent theatrical outing in “Hamlet” received raves reviews as well.

  31. virginfangirls says:

    This play sounds so interesting and well acted. I wish I could go see it.