BWW Review: THE HOMECOMING, Nov 19 2015

Tom Cox

Jamie Lloyd's electric reimaginings have been taking the Trafalgar Studios by storm for the last few years and The Homecoming is no exception. Providing a stylish jewel to his theatrical crown (or snap back) this show oozes cool without losing any of Pinter's gritty tension.

One of Harold Pinter's most famous plays, The Homecoming places you in a North London family home when oldest son Teddy returns with his wife Ruth to reunite with his working-class family. Brother and father alike tussle for power in a series of one-upmanship and power struggles before claiming Ruth for the family to share - an idea no less resonate today than its first production in 1965. But as the men plot Ruth's sexual destiny, Gemma Chan's powerful performance makes it clear who's coming home.

Perfectly framed in claustrophobic symmetry, Lloyd's production is precise and measured. Words become sharp weapons and no line is left unfulfilled. Littered with Pinter's prescribed images, Lloyd provides glorious pictures, moulding themes into clear and striking symbols.

What's most pleasing is the cohesive unity of each element of design and direction. Richard Howell's drastic red washes and haunting white shoots are driven by an indie soundtrack, encompassing a filmic nature that is bound to appeal to the new audiences the company aims to attract.

This level of skilled teamwork extends entirely to the exceptional ensemble cast all of whom deserve credit. John Simm's dangerously charming Lenny holds the stage with gravitas, matched by Ron Cook's explosive patriarch Max. However, Chan's outstanding portrayal of Ruth keeps all eyes firmly on her, balancing between strength and powerlessness with elegance and vigour.

Despite being objectified and sexualised, Lloyd and Chan maintain Ruth's control and the piece provides an interesting yet uncomfortable offering of gender politics. Although Ruth claims her domestic throne, this apparent freedom comes at the price of abandoning her children and selling her body. However, as each man scrambles to please and eventually fall in her lap or at her feet, the final image presents itself as a dark celebration of matriarchy and the mother so clearly missed.

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