‘The Homecoming’ at Trafalgar Studios – A Review

After seeing previous plays directed by Jamie Lloyd, I had high expectations for his latest project; ‘The Homecoming’ by Harold Pinter, which features an ensemble cast comprised of John Simm, Gemma Chan, Keith Allen, Ron Cook, Gary Kemp and John Macmillan.

‘The Homecoming’ centres around a male-dominated family made up of the father, Max (Ron Cook), his three sons, Teddy (Gary Kemp), Lenny (John Simm), and Joey (John Macmillan) and his brother Sam (Keith Allen). When Teddy and his wife, Ruth (Gemma Chan), decide to visit his family with no prior warning, Ruth slowly and subtly wraps everyone around her little finger.

In all honesty, I haven’t had much experience with Pinter’s works, but the disjointedness of the plot made me uncomfortable. Also, the fact that a lot of character actions weren’t fully explained, and the way that they themselves seemed to change with little, or no, provocation, did little to alleviate my discomfort. Even their back-stories felt sketchy and incomplete as little was said to suggest any past events (all we’re given is information that their mother died and an odd speech which involved Lenny reminiscing about when his father used to tuck him and his brothers into bed). Ruth, however, was the main puzzle of the play since her character seemed to shift around quite a bit. When alone with Teddy near the start she appears to be a reserved yet resentful individual, then a scene later, when she’s alone with Teddy’s brother, Lenny, she gradually develops a manipulative and provocative attitude. Although it’s obvious that her transition must have something to do with her interaction with Lenny, it still feels a little out of the blue, I feel like we needed a little more information about her to understand the change. The ending is also somewhat unexpected (I won’t spoil it), and although there is an obvious comment on power play here, as Ruth uses her wiles to instigate authority, the overall effect leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It almost feels as though it’s trying to say that the only way women can have power is by exploiting men with their sexuality.

However, the actual production of the play, in my opinion, was fairly unfaultable (to this end, Jamie Lloyd has delivered once again). It was the play itself that let it down. Although, I can’t be completely without heart as I did find myself laughing on the odd occasion at the dark humour, and John Simm’s sadistic smile is something to be admired. The actors did a pretty remarkable job too; I was drawn in by their portrayals (even if I wasn’t drawn in by the characters themselves).

Personally, I wouldn’t say that it’s worth a full price ticket, but I managed to take advantage of the £15 Monday deal that Trafalgar Studios like to use, so I’m pretty content. Although no more of the £15 deals are on offer for this performance, it’s extremely likely that the scheme will be around for future shows and it’s definitely worth thinking about.

 

A big plus for the production though; you get to see John Simm in action, and once you get past the weedy tone of voice he uses, you realise just how talented he is.

 

The Verdict: 3/5

 

‘The Homecoming’ is at Trafalgar Studios until the 13th February 2016. Prices range from £29.50 to £69.50.

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