family portrait

Shanaya Rafaat (Ruth), Mathew Horne (Lenny) and Keith Allen (Max)

 Pictures: Manuel Harlan

The Homecoming

Malvern Theatres


The Homecoming is regarded as perhaps the greatest of Harold Pinter’s early plays.. We are presented with a grim family in London who are headed by Max, the retired butcher, and his brother Sam, a taxi driver, and his three sons, Teddy, Lennie and Joey. Max’ wife Jessie died previously, Teddie emigrated to the US, leaving an all-male household whose culture is aggressive, angry and bleak.

Into this stark household Teddy returns with his wife Ruth. They married in Britain before moving to the USA where Teddy is a professor of philosophy and where they have three children who they have left behind. Their marriage seems to have failed; they have just had a short holiday in Venice. Was this a last-ditch attempt to save their marriage? They return without warning to Teddy’s family home in the middle of the night.

It becomes clear that Ruth has a background in the nude modelling industry and is happy to enter into sexual activity with Teddy’s brothers. When it is proposed that she might remain here and finance her place in the household with some part-time prostitution, she raises no objection and shows no natural maternal concern for her abandoned children. Furthermore, Teddy accepts this proposal quite passively and decides to return to look after the children in the US.

While the characters in this play are individually credible, they do not entirely seem a believable family. Teddy seems to have an intellect and career that seems an unlikely product of such a breeding ground. However, Pinter is less inclined to present us with realism; he is more likely to explore the modern angst of a lost and absurd universe, to present us with an image and experience of lostness, loneliness, and existential anger. 


Keith Allen as head of the family, Max

This is a very effective and bleak production of Pinter’s classic. The set is dark and foreboding. The use of lighting and sound effects is abrupt and unsettling, though highly effective dramatically. The actors provide sharply defined characters among which are none that engages our sympathy.

Keith Allen as Max is the pivotal character in the household. He plays the role with powerful anger and coarseness that dominates the atmosphere. Ian Bartholomew plays Sam as Max’s put-upon brother for whom we feel perhaps the most sympathy.

Matthew Horne is very convincing as the slick son Lenny, who, it seems, runs a successful ring of prostitutes in the city. Geoffrey Lumb is the somewhat simple-minded Joey, who is bestial in his instincts and impulses. Sam Alexander plays Teddy with dramatically effective stillness and resignation.

The most chilling character is Ruth, played icily and poignantly by Shanaya Rafaat.

The Homecoming is an enigmatic title that typifies Pinter’s work. Does it simply refer to Teddy returning from the States with his wife to the home of his upbringing? Is it a reference to Ruth returning to the lifestyle in the UK that she had before marrying Teddy and emigrating? Pinter is the master of mystery and enigma. He poses questions and does not answer or resolve them, though typically his construction of dialogue is masterful and he is ‘never boring for a split second ‘.

This is a very good production of a gloomy piece of depressing writing that does little to lift the spirits in this gloomy season. To 23-04-22.

Tim Crow


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