Trafalgar Studios, London – until 13 February 2016
It’s fair to say that Pinter is not for the faint hearted of theatre goers. The complexity, controversial and sometimes baffling storylines dealing with sexism, antiquated values, male chauvinism and anger does not make for a necessarily enjoyable evening. An awkward reminder of bygone days is an unusual choice to celebrate its 50th anniversary. However what makes this production is the artistic direction of Jamie Lloyd and a cast of brilliant actors each at the height of their profession.
An extremely simple set with clever use of shade and light makes for a dynamic opening with John Simm standing menacingly in the darkness. I have to confess it was the collection of actors that made me feel the need to see the show. Having read and performed Pinter, I know how the wordiness can easily trip you up along with finding the necessary characterisation. Simm plays brother Teddy to this seemingly dysfunctional family. Simms‘ confident and calculated performance was always to be expected and did not disappoint. Father Max played by Ron Cook with a ferocious anger and resentment towards women and life in general has some of the major speeches, and delivers them venomously and splendidly from his armchair.
The Homecoming is a story about a families firstborn son (Gary Kemp) returning from six years in America where he has been a Professor in Philosophy, got married to a beautiful women (Gemma Chan) who has borne him three boys. Add to this scenario one further brother Joey (John MacMillan) who seems the least complicated and an Uncle Sam (Keith Allen) who was decidedly the fun if not camp uncle whom we all adore.
Kemp and Chan as husband and wife are perfectly matched, you first witness the fact that they are in sync with one another when they arrive on stage. Chan needs to get some air as she feels the intensity and darkness of the family home. Whilst Kemp remains within, both evident on stage and simultaneously silently screaming, a truly great moment and one that continues throughout this play displaying strong performances from both. We are led to believe that Chan is a victim here but in actual fact the limited lines that she has actually leaves you believing she is very much in control at the end and manipulates the situation for herself.
There are scenes that I found disturbing and uncomfortable to watch but then again society is different today and this provocative and explicit in parts play was always probably written to shock which Pinter has a reputation for, along with his black comedy and complexity. Were the scenes true events or was it in their minds and imaginations? As always with Pinter make of it what you will.
I immensely enjoyed this 50th Celebration of The Homecoming and would say that whatever your reasoning is to see this production, wether it be Harold Pinter written or the outstanding cast I would definitely say, this is unequivocally a show to see.