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Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming at Trafalgar Studios – Review

Gary Kemp, John Simm and Gemma Chan in The Homecoming.
Gary Kemp, John Simm and Gemma Chan in The Homecoming. Photography by Marc Brenner.jpg

Jamie Lloyd is an expert in the award-winning works of Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, having directed The Caretaker, The Hothouse, The Lover and The Collection. Now Lloyd has revived Pinter’s classic play The Homecoming at Trafalgar Studios to celebrate its 50th anniversary. This production shines with a fascinating cast.

The Homecoming is dark in humour, setting and menacing characterisation. The theatrical devices Pinter employs in his famous script are potent, obscure and unexpected. Things are not as they seem.

Teddy (Gary Kemp) and his wife, Ruth (Gemma Chan), come home to Teddy’s family house in North London. It’s Ruth first time meeting the family but for some reason Ruth finds this cold and uninviting place – inhabited by angry father, Max, (Ron Cook), Lenny (John Simm), Uncle Sam (Keith Allen) and Joey (John Macmillan) -, all so familiar to her; so much so that she decides to stay behind while her husband returns to America for their children.

Ruth’s shocking familiarity is tied to a sexual and perverse past she led before she married Teddy. She becomes a function in the house, as the missing female link that all the men need.

The dialogue is awkward, strange, and yet often witty. The characters are deliberately cold in speech and substance. The relationships between brother and brother, father and son and uncle and brother are all dysfunctional. Chan as a wife of a philosophy academic is also unromantic. The formal conversations are often contrived adding to the disturbing dimension on Soutra Gilmour’s simple living room stage.

Chan’s performance as Ruth is highly focused and just as robotic as her lead role in the TV show, Humans. Although it may seem as if Ruth has become an object of sexual desire, she is, actually, more in control than her status as a wife and a mother. Kemp’s performance as an academic is also authentic, but he shows chilling signs of a broken marriage as he bites his hand when Ruth goes against his wishes.

Simm’s depiction of Lenny is also uneasy but somehow funny. Though he is dressed in a suit, most of the time, there’s a humourous slant in him, which covers up his perverted nature ever so slightly. Cook performs effortlessly as a nasty and physically violent father while Allen presents a cheeky-chappy portrayal of a harmless uncle. Macmillan, as amateur boxer Joey, is the youngest of men but there’s an aggression inside of him, which doesn’t make him any more likable than the rest of his family.

There are long and powerful pauses, which is a signature effect of Pinter’s theatrical writing. They act as sharp and necessary components. They come together with loud, piercing music during the scene changes and plenty of intense lighting, by Richard Howell. It’s all part and parcel of Lloyd’s intelligent, no-nonsense production.

By the second half, the play moves a lot faster and answers a lot more questions offered in the tricky first act. The Homecoming premiered in 1964 and was highly reclaimed for its originality. It won’t blow your mind like it did 50 years ago and it won’t make you think of happier thoughts either, but it will give audiences the product of what a great cast can do with a ‘game-changing’ unsettling script.

4 stars


Review by Mary Nguyen

The Jamie Lloyd Company returns to the West End with Harold Pinter’s enigmatic masterpiece, The Homecoming, in the 50th anniversary year of the multi award-winning modern classic.

Widely regarded as Pinter’s finest play, the dangerous and tantalisingly ambiguous world of The Homecoming is a crackling hotbed of visceral tension. Celebrated as one of the leading interpreters of Pinter’s work, director Jamie Lloyd has assembled an impressive cast in what promises to be a dynamic production. Starring Keith Allen, Gemma Chan, Ron Cook, Gary Kemp, John Macmillan and John Simm. Design by Soutra Gilmour. Lighting design by Richard Howell.

The Homecoming is a unique contemporary masterpiece of the 20th Century. This 50th anniversary production will continue The Jamie Lloyd Company’s reputation for presenting compelling drama that sparks passionate debate.

The Homecoming
Trafalgar Studios
14 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DY
Previews from 14th November 2015
Opens 23rd November 2015
Booking to 13th February 2016
Evenings: Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday 2.30pm


1 thought on “Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming at Trafalgar Studios – Review”

  1. Why was a 56 year old male cast opposite a 33 year old female when Pinter wrote the parts for two people in their mid 30’s? #ageism

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