Review: The Homecoming, Almeida

Pinter seems to be all the rage at the moment: Islington’s Almeida Theatre is now getting in on the act with a revival of his 1964 play The Homecoming.

Set in an all male household in North London, the play explores the reaction of a family to the homecoming of the eldest son and his wife. This household has been male-dominated for a long time and the arrival of a woman sparks a set of power plays in which not everyone is quite as they seem. The casting of Jenny Jules as the new wife also contributes a racial dimension to the dynamic, an added frisson into this powderkeg of a scenario.

The cast were all strong, if not particularly remarkable. No-one really stood out for me but Cranham’s vituperative patriarch and Nigel Lindsay’s reptilian Lenny came close. Jules is good, but is required to do so much and be so many things to so many men that it is not always abundantly clear who she actually is as a person, it is almost too detached a performance.

This is partly to do with the ending, I’m not sure how seriously we were meant to take it. In order to take Jules seriously, one has to ignore the realities of how such a family would have related to an Afro-Caribbean woman in the family thereby elevating the whole production into a bit of a fantasy and maybe that where we were meant to be. But I’m not sure and I think it is mostly to do with being a weak ending, after a stunningly strong start, but then who am I to question Mr Pinter!

Ultimately, it does not feel like Pinter has a lot to actually say here that is of much relevance to us today. In the best sense, this is a period piece, rooted in the social politics of its time and it shows. But there’s no doubting the quality of the writing and there’s some wonderfully biting put-downs and insults here, delivered well and with a rising intensity that makes you finally glad to escape onto Upper Street.

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