By Tom Barry
A surprisingly excruciating cross-section of patriarchal dysfunction, The Homecoming is about the violent interactions of masculinity within the family unit, and what happens when maternal loss is suddenly replaced. Teddy, a professor of philosophy, returns home to introduce his wife Ruth to his family. He soon discovers that his father and siblings are not quite how he remembered them, and the presence of Ruth begins to bring out the worst in the all-male household.
There is a reason why the works of Harold Pinter merited the inclusion of the term ‘Pinteresque’ in the Oxford English Dictionary; his plays are quite unlike any others, whether contemporary or no, by the constant malaise of threat and dread produced by colloquial malapropism, apparent triviality that hides dark and long-held grudges, and pauses which bring the pain of mundanity crashes against the audience’s endurance. In that sense, this production of The Homecoming is a triumph; George Abbott’s proactive direction within the Drama Barn’s oppressive confines and the cast’s uniform composure perfectly encapsulate the precise style of Pinter’s approach to drama.
The relationships are well-wrought and tread the absolute equator between realism and absurdism, giving the audience just the minimum amount of traction with the text to fool them into believing they have any clue what’s going to happen next. Mia Hamilton, the only woman in a play concerning the quasi-incestuous infighting of a tribe of men, is controlled and unperturbed by events, so much so that she eventually comes to sit at the centre of action, the most powerful character onstage by her physical presence.
Any theatregoers as yet uninitiated into Pinter should beware; he was the most divisive playwright of his day for a reason. The Homecoming‘s two hours feel far longer (as they should), and every second of action (or more often, inaction) is a test of the audience’s powers of concentration. But for those to whom Pinter speaks profoundly, the team behind this revival have done an outstanding job in faithfully recreating this classic, especially considering all the usual limitations and compromises of student productions.
The Homecoming by Harold Pinter, performing at the Drama Barn tonight at 7:30pm. Tickets available on the door (£4/5).