Coolly inscrutable … Gemma Chan as Ruth, with Gary Kemp and Ron Cook, in The Homecoming at Trafalgar Studios in London. Photograph: Marc Brenner
Fifty several years soon after its London premiere, Harold Pinter’s perform proceeds to puzzle, astonish and delight. Much from treating it as a revered theatrical specimen preserved in aspic, Jamie Lloyd’s superb revival provides a clean method to the engage in with out in any way violating the rhythms of Pinter’s textual content.
Lloyd’s daring idea is to give us lightning glimpses of the fraught internal life of Pinter’s characters. It stays the tale of a warring north London household, whose nightly battles are disrupted by the arrival of a extended-misplaced son, Teddy, and his wife, Ruth. Positioning the motion inside the geometric frames of Soutra Gilmour’s spartan set, Lloyd consistently reminds us that Pinter’s figures have a life beyond the terms they speak. John Simm’s trim, trim Lenny, the family pimp, is at 1 level noticed trying to bodily strangle a recalcitrant clock. Remaining alone, Gary Kemp’s tensely apprehensive Teddy stifles his anxiety by thrusting his fist in his mouth. Gemma Chan, popular for actively playing a domestic robot in TV’s Human beings, exhibits the coolly inscrutable Ruth burying her head in her fingers the next she leaves the property.
Stifling … Gary Kemp as Teddy (with John Simm, left, as Lenny) in The Homecoming. Photograph: Marc Brenner
These startling photos of frustration and despair by no means, even so, obscure Pinter’s stage that this is a loved ones for whom each and every trade is element of an ongoing domestic campaign, and the place the past is employed as a weapon. You see this in the opening exchanges amongst Ron Cook’s brilliantly ebullient Max, and Keith Allen as his chauffeur brother Sam. The tendency is generally to contrast Max’s rampaging masculinity with Sam’s neutered prissiness. But right here it is a contest among two equals, with Sam deftly using his understanding of Max’s late wife, Jessie, as a verbal dagger to wound his sibling. Cook captures wonderfully the instability guiding Max’s bombast: rejoicing in the family’s surprising reunion, he out of the blue goes brick-red with bile, like a north London Lear.
The big question that hangs above the perform is why Ruth deserts her partner to settle with her rackety in-laws. The choice, even so surprising, in this version would seem psychologically plausible: Chan’s Ruth, behind her serene exterior, is obviously a woman in disaster. What Chan shows, with wonderful skill, is Ruth thawing underneath the influence of her new household. She finds a needy virility in her boxer brother-in-regulation (John Macmillan), commences to mimic Lenny’s Cockney patter, and defiantly slams down a cup when Teddy talks of returning home to “a quite stimulating environment”. The closing picture of Pinter’s enjoy remains open to endless choices, but Chan indicates Ruth is a female who has rediscovered herself fairly than 1 who is surrendering to male fantasies.
This is one of the motives why The Homecoming retains its hold more than our imaginations. It can be witnessed as a Freudian engage in about sons loaded with subconscious Oedipal desires. It can equally be witnessed as an ethological review of a group of human animals battling over territory. But, in the conclude, it is about a female who makes a life-shifting selection to swap a single household for one more. Specifically because Pinter in no way moralises about or resolves the situation, it is a play that, when impeccably acted as below, carries on to haunt our goals.