The Homecoming: A dysfunctional family drama in London suburb | Theatre | Entertainment

2 min read

The Young Vic until January 27
Tickets: 020 7922 2922

Harold Pinter’s 1964 play is as dangerous as it was on the day it was written. A bizarrely dysfunctional family of five men occupy a house in a London suburb.

Retired butcher Max (Jared Harris) is the bullying, arthritic patriarch, prone to fits of cane-swinging violence. His chauffeur brother Sam (Nicolas Tennant) is subjected to Max’s homophobic verbal abuse (“You bitch!”) while rebellious son Lenny (Joe Cole from Peaky Blinders) appears to run a ring of prostitutes. Joey (David Angland) is a dim wannabe boxer working in ‘demolition’.

When eldest son Teddy (Robert Emms) – who escaped the toxic household to become a philosophy professor in the US – visits with wife Ruth (Lisa Diveney), the smell of stale testosterone becomes ever stronger.

Matthew Dunster’s solid production produces a fistful of good moments without ratcheting up the play’s claustrophobic menace.

The spartan living room set and sudden lighting changes and sound cues work against Pinter’s mutant naturalism.

Beneath the surface humour lies a pool of poison. The inference that Max has sexually abused his sons is as opaque as the nature of his past association with the unseen villain MacGregor, yet it haunts the play like a ghost.

Harris plays Max with more pathetic sentimentality than usual, tearfully recalling his dead wife Jessie whose empty rocking chair sits accusingly on stage.

Like Twiggy gone to the Dark Side, Diveney brings a ruthlessness to Ruth that makes her return to London and the low-life milieu appear logical. She is the one who is coming ‘home’.

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