Plot: Set in North London, the play has six characters: five men who are related––Max (Kenneth Cranham), a retired butcher, and Sam (Anthony O’Donnell), a chauffeur, who are brothers; and Max’s three sons, Teddy (Neil Dudgeon), an expatriate American philosophy professor; Lenny (Nigel Lindsay), who appears to be a pimp; and Joey (Danny Dyer), a would-be boxer in training who works in demolition; and one woman, Ruth (Jenny Jules), Teddy’s wife. The plot involves Teddy bringing home his wife, Ruth, for the first time from the United States to the working-class North London environment where he grew up and which she finds more familiar than their arid academic world in America. Much sexual tension occurs as his wife teases Teddy’s brothers and father and the men taunt one another in a game of oneupmanship.
I saw my first play at the Almeida back in 2003, with Joanna Laurens’ Five Gold Rings. So it was a thrill to come back after 5 years, this time watching my very first Harold Pinter production of The Homecoming. I was also thrilled to see Kenneth Cranham (HBO’s Rome, Hot Fuzz) perform on stage, again for the first time.
Directed by Michael Attenborough, this is an excellent revival of Pinter’s black comedy of brute alienation and sentimentality. In the performances, Cranham is just fantastic. His Max was fearful and all that bottled up rage is palpable long after the play has finished. But I suppose the genius was in the casting of Jenny Jules as Ruth, her coolness and seemingly calculating subtle manipulation is just what the family ordered. It’s not an easy production to watch with all the morality play and if Pinter might have left his options open as to what has to become of Ruth and this revival might have implied otherwise with such panache.
The Homecoming: 4/5
Playing at the Almeida until March 22