Harold Pinter’s 1960s masterpiece The Homecoming – widely regarded as his finest play is now showing at the Newcastle Theatre and I popped along to see this play last night.
I usually see musicals when attending the Theatre Royal Newcastle, so it was really good to come and see a stage play. This bleakly funny exploration of family and relationships has become a modern classic and winner of the Tony Award for Best New Play.
So as ever – if you don’t know what’s it all about? Here’s the official blurb.
Teddy, a professor in an American university, returns to his childhood home accompanied by his wife, Ruth, to find his father, uncle and brothers still living there. In the subsequent series of encounters, life becomes a barely camouflaged battle for power and sexual supremacy fought out with taut verbal brutality. Who will emerge victorious – the poised and elegant Ruth or her husband’s dysfunctional family?
Staging is simple yet effective. Set in the living room of Max the father, and arguable head of this family being played by Keith Allen. The whole play is based upon conversations had within this living room. No flash gimmicks, or stage affects we are drawn into each scene for what discussions, debates and plans are to be drawn up. In a Q&A after the show Keith Allen commented on the oversized stair case that takes too long to get up which typified the writing style that Pinter offers us. Moments where the lighting is used to maximum affect to change some scenes is great and builds tension also.
Every character plays there part in this classic. Led by Keith Allen as widowed husband and the head of the family Max.
His old school thinking and attitude continue to have him think everyone should be grateful to him and that he can do no wrong. Allen’s portrayal of what appeared to me, was that of an angry man. Obviously bearing a lot of chips on his shoulder and was great to watch. He was remorseless in opinion and unforgiving for it too.
We see Lenny played by Matthew Horne by his side. Wearing a suit and taking in the newspaper we don’t get much of what he does as a career until nearer the end of the play but Horne delivers this role fabulously. His delivery of the dialogue along with Sam Alexander who plays our returning son Teddy was just fantastic.
Pinter is widely known for pauses and they are executed with precision in this show to bring moments of awkwardness and humour.
Shanaya Rafat who is the woman at the centre of everyone’s attention is clever, smart and maybe even manipulative. It becomes clear she isn’t happy with her current life and maybe seeks more excitement. With all the macho-ism and misogyny that surrounds her, she appears to be the victim in what plans are laid out for her…but you do have to wonder if by the end, is she is the one that is dictating the moves.
This play demonstrated a way of writing, use of language and delivery of dialogue that was utterly brilliant, and that of which I personally haven’t seen before. I’d definitely recommend seeing this before it leaves. If you know theatre, Pinter needs no explanation and proves in this why he was one of the greats.
The Homecoming plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tue 10 – Sat 14 May 2022. Tickets are priced from £15.00 and can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.
*Disclosure – I was gifted a press ticket for access to this show.