The Homecoming

Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(8user reviews)
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerJohn Simm
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerGary Kemp, Ron Cook and Gemma Chan
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerJohn Macmillian
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerJohn Simm and Gary Kemp
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerRon Cook
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerGary Kemp, John Simm and Gemma Chan
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerRon Cook

Jamie Lloyd returns to Pinter with this revival of the master's unnerving 1965 play.

The plays of Harold Pinter are famous for their unsettling pauses, but Jamie Lloyd’s fiftieth anniversary revival of ‘The Homecoming’ is as notable for its sound and fury as its silences. All the action takes place in Soutra Gilmour’s stylised, blood-red triangular living room set, in which characters are occasionally picked out in grotesque, underlit tableaux, appearing suddenly from the pulsing darkness in menacing poses, to the strains of mangled, primitive rock ’n’ roll.

And they shout, how they shout: patriarch Max (Ron Cook) practically screams as he spews and vents at his sons, constantly, shrilly telling them why they should be grateful to him (he loudly proclaims that he has ‘given birth to three full-grown men’); in the standout performance from a superb ensemble, John Simm’s terrifying Lenny talks in loud, precise cockney tones that sound like false cheer disguising bottomless demonic malevolence; slow-witted, physically powerful Joey (John Macmillan) speaks in an uncontrolled boom. Only Keith Allen’s uncle Sam exhibits any gentleness, but he is marginalised by his brother Max, who tangles him in dismissive innuendos.

It’s a vision of testosterone-charged hell: loud, empty, heartless, a clangorous dick-measuring contest that will never have an outcome.

Into this walks the third son, Teddy (Gary Kemp), who allegedly disappeared six years ago to marry and move to America with Ruth (Gemma Chan). Channelling a not totally dissimilar vibe to her robot character in TV’s ‘Humans’, Chan is eerie and unnerving, a creature of cold, precise beauty who slides into the raging masculine ugliness like a spike of ice through the guts. The men try to possess her – physically, and verbally (describing how they’re going to turn her into a whore) – but they are essentially helpless next to her, desperately trying to please her, melting and reforming around her cool, still form, jumping to nervously when she starts to give orders. As she takes control of the family the homecoming is hers, not Teddy’s – he is left to slink back to America and their kids (if any of that even exists).

It is possible to give this play a relatively conventional staging, as an eerie subversion of the domestic drama. Lloyd his having none of that: his revival is pummelling and wired. Its two hours seem to fly by, but I felt completely knackered, like I’d been up on an amphetamine bender for a week. It’s easy to dryly pick over Pinter’s symbolism, but this roaring gutpunch of a production feels too visceral for cold overanalysis – a disorientating portrait of masculinity-as-hell that swaggers with infernal vitality.

Book with Time Out for an exclusive post-show conversation with 'The Homecoming' director Jamie Lloyd and star Gemma Chan on December 8

By: Andrzej Lukowski


Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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I sat there the whole time completely lost, I just did not understand what was going on and I definitely found it dark rather than funny.  Then I went home and looked it up on Wikipedia and it became clear.  I've seen other Pinter work - this I really struggled with.  In hindsight it was good but I could not relate to the story.

Great play, it has what you need from a play. The highs and the lows, the laughter and the tears. Highly recommended

I often struggle with Pinter but Jamie Lloyds production is so slick, stylish and well cast that I loved this. Highly recommend

Staff Writer

I love Jamie Lloyd's direction and he knocked it out of the park with this ultra-stylised interpretation of the Harold Pinter classic. The cast was incredible, the set was simple and elegant, the lighting made the play, and the sound design left me tense with anticipation. It really isn't a production for die-hard Pinter fans but it's definitely one of the most powerful things I've seen in recent months. 

Definitely not a great introduction to Pinter for those unfamiliar - the approach was overly-stylized, and the lack of naturalism (from the heightened reality of the performances, to the kind of staging that would suit a science fiction production like 1984 or The Nether) detracted from the simplicity of the narrative hugely. I admire them for trying to put a unique spin on things, and I can only assume that they'd hoped to broaden the appeal of the play, but the approach was all wrong for the material.

Staff Writer

it was the first time I watched a play from Pinter so it was both confusing and disturbing but i guess this what the author of the play aimed at while writing the plot! The cast delivers an outstanding performance, the production is interesting (there is a lot of music involved). Not too sure yet if I liked it or disliked it, but certainly you walk out of the theatre trying to figure out what was it all about...If you are a fan of Pinter's artwork this is for you!

Staff Writer

Okay, so I'm not quite sure where to start with this one. I liked it but I don't think that it was brilliant nor was it great, it was okay and good, which I know doesn't make much sense but it pretty much sums up the play as an overall. Most of the cast were brilliant with a couple of weak links. The two stand out performers for me were Ron Cook and Gary Kemp, absolutely brilliant and compelling. 

If you are a fan of Pinter you would probably like it more than me, if you like the feeling of walking out of a play thinking 'what did I just watch?' you would probably like it more than me and if you won't mind some not so great acting surrounded by brilliant acting, you would probably like it more than me. The story and the dramatic purses along with the staging and lighting I liked, I just found that bits were missing and something was not quite right

Brilliant, well acted though also very disturbing at the same time. Its good how these men are so dysfunctional and grotesque misogynists and how Gemma Chan role reversal in that she becomes the patriarch of this dysfunctional family. Well acted by everyone. I liked Gemma Chans character, cool, calm and collective though distant with a hidden past.