Any fan of the work of Harold Pinter will NOT want to miss the anniversary production of The Homecoming that has been expertly produced and directed by The Jamie Lloyd Company and is currently running at The Trafalgar Studios in Central London. I don’t have a negative word to say about it (even though I left feeling rather shocked and disturbed by the plot).
The Homecoming is the second Pinter production that the Jamie Lloyd company has put on at The Trafalgar Studios, the first being The Hothouse in 2013, with both productions starring John Simm in leading roles. And like The Hothouse in 2013, this production fits perfectly into the Trafalgar studio space – it is just the right size to be intimate yet allows you to feel personally distant from the characters. As the horror unfolds, the audience can sit back in their chair and remove themselves from the action.
The stage is very minimally set; one armchair, a stool, a hardback chair, a side cabinet, stairs and a front door are all on display. The setting is the living room of a family home in East London, in the mid 1960s. The stage has been beautifully designed by Soutra Gilmour with the room lit up with fluorescent red lights. For those of you who have seen The Cube on ITV it shares the same claustrophobic framework.
John Macmillan is, for me, an interesting casting of Joey. He is brilliant. His physicality and movement is fantastic. The way he portrays the character of Joey made me wonder if he was possibly abused by Max when he was younger and is suffering from some sort of mental health issue.
Four of the six characters we meet in the production live in the house, two are visiting. The only character whose body leaves the setting is Ruth (performed beautifully by Gemma Chan. Although other characters leave the room, we witness Ruth step outside of the stage setting. Firstly she steps outside for a breath of fresh air into the wings (on display) and secondly towards the end of Act 2 when her legs dangle off the front of the stage. This simple direction is so important to the production and the powerplay that is going on throughout the piece.
Often space is mentioned in the play, about how much room there is, about how the family knocked down a wall to make their living room larger. However, all you sense is claustrophobia, ill-intention and a feeling of being choked when watching the piece, there is never comfortable living in this room. There are only taunts, memories and powerplay. At several points in the production characters smoke cigars, and the thick smoky smell envelopes the audience too, we are breathing in their smoke and their toxicity.
Along with the clever design of the set, the movement direction and accompanying sound and lighting work really well together. If one of these was out of sync then the production wouldn’t work. I would highly commend the full company here, from fight director through to wardrobe manager. I also love the symmetry that was often present on stage.
The Homecoming is one of Pinter’s “Comedy of menace” dramas. To be blunt this production does exactly that, it is both menacing and comedic. I laughed out loudly at times yet was disturbed and troubled feeling cold shivers down my spine at several points throughout the play.
The play has been expertly cast, and each performer has skilfully taken on their dark and menacing characteristics beautifully. I can’t criticise anyone or anything as all of the actors rise to the challenge beautifully, however, Ron Cook (Max), Keith Allen (Sam) and John Simm ( Lenny) are formidable. I could clearly see their frustration, torment and pure hatred in every move they made, from their gritted fingers to their fake smiles, these actors have embodied every sense of being in the character they have been given.
The play is disturbing, there is no doubt about that. It’s highly political and provocative as you’d expect a Pinter play to be. However, most prevalent is where each character is trying to usurp another with power, be this physical, mental or with sexual violence. As it unfolds in front of us, the power games become fully charged and watching the piece becomes more uncomfortable.
Review by Faye Stockley
The Homecoming Overview
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.
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Show Opened: 14th November 2015
Booking Until: 13th February 2016
Evenings: Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday 2.30pm