Review: The Homecoming “Pin-point with Pinter

Lifestyle / Thu 16th Feb 2017 at 12:43pm

YOU have to admire Harlow Theatre Company. They are a brave theatre group that are not afraid to take on challenging pieces.

On Wednesday night, this reviewer went down to the Victoria Hall in Old Harlow to see their performance of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming.

Set in North London, the play has six characters. Five of these are men who are related to each other: Max, a retired butcher; his brother Sam, a chauffeur; and Max’s three sons — Teddy, an expatriate American philosophy professor; Lenny, who appears to be a pimp; and Joey, a would-be boxer in training who works in demolition. There is one woman, Ruth, who is Teddy’s wife. The play concerns Teddy’s and Ruth’s “homecoming,” which has distinctly different symbolic and thematic implications.

The first key test is whether the actors can convey the feeling that here we have six people, who, over two hours, will speak at each other but never really communicate with each other. Six people wrapped up in their neurotic, unhappy worlds. Each actor does this perfectly. Barry Bowen starts it off as the father Max, who comes across as a man whose sons and his brother can never thank him enough for the sacrifices he thinks he has made. Barry comes across as a mixture of Fagin and Rigsby. But then enters the oleaginous Lenny played by Joe Bishop. It was hard not to keep your eyes away from Joe. Part pimp, part sociopath, Joe never wasted a line or mannerism or movement as he dominated the stage. Mesmerising.

Both Paul Johnson as Sam and Tyrone Samuels as Joey had the other roles of surly, pejorative men who were reminded of the mediocrity of their lives, time and time again.

Then there was Mitch Rous who plays Teddy, a humble academic who spends the whole performance being humiliated. The reason is that he is in the midst of a totally dysfunctional family. Mitch played the part with a deft touch.

And it is in the midst of this dysfunctional family, that Ruth played by Pam Self-Pierson walks in. Part unhappy housewife with a touch of Ruth Ellis meets a platinum Lady MacBeth, you are never sure if she is a victim or a manipulative menace. Again, we have seen Pam a few times over the last four years and she is a genuine talent.

This production succeeds because it is so well acted and so well directed. Jane Miles definitely understands Pinter but also understands that you have to let the play and the actors breathe. Again, it works because this is true ensemble work.

There are so many layers to this play but it is also funny, laugh out loud funny. It menaces, it provokes and looks into dark hearts and souls.

In these uncertain times, this reviewer would heartily recommend The Homecoming.


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