The Homecoming review from 2001

Wednesday, 26 September, 2001
Review by: 
Darren Dalglish

This Gate Theatre, Dublin production of Harold Pinter’s shocking and disturbing, yet comical dark play is magnificent.

Written in 1965 "The Homecoming" is about an all male household consisting of Max, the father who is a mean and cantankerous old man, his pimp son Lenny, and his boxing son Joey. Then there's Max's brother Sam a ‘posh’ chauffeur. One day out of the blue Max's other son Teddy, a successful lecturer who has been living in America for the past 6 years arrives home for a visit with his wife Ruth. However, Ruth behaves in a strange and provocative way and starts to seduce Lenny and Joey in front of her husband and father in Law!

Having seen “The Homecoming” a couple of times now I still find it difficult to work out what it is that Pinter is trying to say in this play. Is it about control or manipulation? After all at first you believe the men are in control, but in the end it is obvious that it is Ruth that is in control. So is it about female liberation? Or is it more to do with the rules of family life. Who sets the rules? What are the rules? Is Pinter challenging them? Whatever, it is extremely intriguing and masterly written with the typical pauses that hold you in a trance.

The beauty of the play for me is the bizarre characters, particularly when performed by an exceptional cast. Ian Holm is outstanding as the father, Max. His brilliant comic gestures and facial expressions are a dream. I love the way he stomps around the house shouting at everyone with his crude cockney accent and poking them with his walking stick. A masterful performance that portrays the character as less repulsive than I have seen it performed in other productions. Lia Williams is delicious as the sumptuous and mysterious. ‘Ruth’. She oozes sexual aroma with her tight blue dress and slow dominant, sexy voice. You can see why the men fall under her spell.

The popular press also liked the production… DOMINIC CAVENDISH for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, “Compulsory viewing”. He goes on to say, “Every nook and crevice of Robin Lefevre's production is perfectly polished….an absolute joy to watch.” PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says the play “has lost none of its power to affront and fascinate”. NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD describes it as “gripping” and says it’s a “rare, ripe evening” However, he was disappointed with Holm’s performance describing it as “overpitched” and “unconvincing”.

“The Homecoming” is an intriguing and fascinating play that demands a lot of thought. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea; some may find the play too slow and confusing. But I’m sure most will relish it.


Links to full reviews from newspapers...

Daily Telegraph
The Independent

Next review by Carol Verburg
Nov 2001

This production of Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming" leaned more toward humor and less toward menace than any production I've seen. My impression was that the marvelous Ian Holm--who defined the angry-young-man role of Lenny a couple decades ago and here plays the angry-old-curmudgeon role of Max--has realized over the years that this play really is a huge joke. He kept breaking out in a great grin, often shared by the audience. And why not?--when Lia Williams's Ruth, the only female in the piece, is not a woman but a Barbie doll? Painfully thin, improbably buxom, with artificial blonde curls and overdone make-up, she restricts her voice to a husky murmur. She certainly found her niche in this dollhouse of a set, with nary a coffee stain or cigarette burn anywhere despite being inhabited by a group of men who (mostly) despise self-restraint, housework and each other.

The rest of the cast gave performances far more restrained than I've seen in other productions, with the result that I lost the sense of menace that normally permeates this play and indeed nearly fell asleep a few times. I wished for either more malevolence, or that Holm's push in the other direction, toward the comic, had been taken up more consciously by the director (Robin LeFevre) and the rest of the cast. All in all, this "Homecoming" struck me as nothing so much as a mean-spirited adult version of "Peter Pan."

Carol Verburg

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