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The Homecoming at Theatre Royal Brighton

This touring production of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming is well worth visiting, whether or not you know the play. In the safe directorial hands of Jamie Glover, it re-emerges as one of the playwright’s strongest and at the same time most elusive scripts.

The Homecoming. Ian Bartholomew (Sam) Credit Manuel Harlan.
The Homecoming. Ian Bartholomew (Sam) Credit Manuel Harlan.

Written in 1964 in Worthing, a few miles west of Brighton, it is set in an old house in north London. In this production the ground floor appears vast, the gaunt set using the full space of the stage and appearing to disappear upwards into the flies, with a never-ending staircase (up centre stage). The flooring is clearly linoleum (whatever happened to that?) and the sparse furniture is scattered to give anything but a homely, lived-in feeling: very imaginative design here by Liz Ashcroft.

The play has six characters, five of whom are related to each other: Max, the father of some of them and a retired butcher, always sits in a chair centre stage. This role is totally inhabited by Keith Allen, as always a true master of both black humour and menace: this is a terrific portrayal and the fact that it is ever so slightly caricatured only enhances his interpretation.

His brother, Sam, is a chauffeur, seemingly a much quieter person in the hands of Ian Bartholomew, but we are never quite sure…

Lenny, a ‘pimp’, only making slight references to his occupation, his clientele and ‘flats’ in central London, is chillingly acted by Matthew Horne, though, because we are actually told so little, we are never sure why we find him so evil.

Joey is a brute, working in demolition and training to be a boxer. Geoffrey Lumb makes him totally believable. NOT someone you would want to meet in one of Brighton’s ‘Lanes’ on a dark night.

Into this “family” steps Teddy (beautifully understated playing by Sam Alexander), a philosophy professor in the United States and supposed brother of Joey and Lenny. He brings with him Ruth (Shanaya Rafaat) who is introduced as his wife with several children, so they have been married for some time, unbeknownst to the rest of the family with whom he apparently has had no contact for a long time – yet has a front door key.

Rafaat, grows her role so that, even though we are given, as always in a Pinter play, little information about her, she is ‘in charge’ of the family by the very end, though they do not realise this, and I won’t give away the moment that this happens, but it is quite chilling!

This is superb ensemble acting and the whole production reeks not just of money being spent on it, but of a highly talented and skilled group of professionals loving and relishing every moment of this play however dark it may appear to be at times…

Whether or not you know The Homecoming, or have never seen Pinter because you have been told he is ‘difficult’, I urge you to go and see it: even if you do not agree with what I think it is about, it is very amusing and totally gripping. Brighton is only one hour from London, and ATG seat prices start at the ‘price promise’ of £13. Highly recommended!

5 Star Rating

Review by John Groves

Harold Pinter’s 1960s masterpiece is widely regarded as his finest play. This bleakly funny exploration of family and relationships has become a modern classic and winner of the Tony Award for Best New Play.

Teddy, a professor in an American university, returns to his childhood home accompanied by his wife, Ruth, to find his father, uncle and brothers still living there. In the subsequent series of encounters, life becomes a barely camouflaged battle for power and sexual supremacy fought out with taut verbal brutality. Who will emerge victorious – the poised and elegant Ruth or her husband’s dysfunctional family?

Star of BBC’s Gavin & Stacey, Mathew Horne (Death in Paradise, Bad Education), is perfectly cast as Lenny, Teddy’s enigmatic brother. Versatile actor, comedian and musician Keith Allen (The Young Ones, The Pembrokeshire Murders, Pinter 3 in the West End) plays the brutal patriarch, Max. Four-time Olivier Award nominee Ian Bartholomew (Into The Woods, Radio Times, Mrs Henderson Presents, Half a Sixpence, Coronation Street) plays Sam.

Teddy is played by Sam Alexander whose recent TV appearances include Rhys in Emmerdale and on stage The Watsons, (Chichester Festival Theatre), Lady in the Van and Racing Demon (both Theatre Royal Bath). RSC regular Geoffrey Lumb, recently seen in the West End in Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and The Light, plays Joey. Shanaya Rafaat (Around the World in 80 Days at the St James Theatre, Great Expectations at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and BBC’s Doctor Who) plays Ruth.

Designer Liz Ascroft, Lighting Designer Johanna Town, Sound Designer Max Pappenheim, Associate Director Amy Reade, Casting Director Ginny Schiller CDG.

Theatre Royal Brighton
Mon 2 May – Sat 7 May 2022
New Road, Brighton, BN1 1SD
Theatre Royal Brighton Events Booking Now

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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