Noël Coward was right: Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming at Theatre Royal Bath is funny, repellent and obscure in no particular order
Theatre Royal Bath On tour until May 21, 2hrs 10mins
After seeing The Homecoming in 1965, Noël Coward wrote an unlikely fan letter to its young author, Harold Pinter.
‘You cheerfully break every rule of the theatre that I was brought up to believe in, except the cardinal one of never being boring for a split second.’
How true that seems in this terrific touring revival, which I saw in Bath. Pinter’s play is funny, repellent and obscure in no particular order. It may even leave you wanting a bath. But boy it grips.
The Homecoming is about a coarse father – a retired butcher – played with a stoop and bags of menace by that terrifying actor Keith Allen (above)
It’s about a coarse father – a retired butcher – played with a stoop and bags of menace by that terrifying actor Keith Allen. He lives in a bare North London house with his damaged sons.
Remembering their childhoods, he at one point says: ‘What fun we had in the bath, eh boys?’ with a possible hint of lust.
Cock of the walk is Lenny, played with a razor smile by Mathew Horne (of Gavin & Stacey fame), a dead sinister pimp.
His brother Joey (Geoffrey Lumb) is a dim boxer and Sam (Ian Bartholomew) is a self-effacing chauffeur who ferries businessmen around.
This play is unsettling in its chilliness, its innate violence to women, and its relish of language. Above: Ian Bartholomew as Sam, a self-effacing chauffeur
This fraternal hornet’s nest is stirred up when their absentee brother Teddy (Sam Alexander), a philosophy professor, returns from America with his elegant wife in tow.
Played with a calm, rippling sexuality by Shanaya Rafaat, Ruth seems oddly at home among these men. The father, Max, chunters on about his days at the racetrack hobnobbing with the toffs. But his misogyny is never hidden for long.
‘I’ve never had a whore under this roof before. Ever since your mother died,’ he says.
This play is unsettling in its chilliness, its innate violence to women, and its relish of language.
The shocker is that Ruth, instead of returning home, decides to stay on with her weirdo brothers-in-law, abandoning her husband and children, to be pimped out by arrangement with the family.
Actually, it’s a cold calculation on her part. You get the feeling it is she who will rule the roost, not the men, and on her own terms.
Coward was right. There’s never a dull moment. The evening hums with static electricity. Director Jamie Glover makes this play both a living thing and a timeless classic.
A must for Pinter-heads, or for anyone wanting some gamey drama to get their teeth into.