at the Swan Theatre, Saturday 6th August 2011
There are many quick to label Harold Pinter as a big player in the ‘absurdist’ tradition. They argue his speech patterns are disjointed and his characters larger-than-life. David Farr’s delightfully dark new production of The Homecoming at the Swan Theatre launches a gentle riposte to these commentators, showing that although the story depicts an utterly bizarre situation, Pinter’s characters and dialogue could not be more real.
Farr’s production makes it clear what is happening from beginning to end; a masculine household is subjected to a female figure in the beautiful Ruth (Aislin McGuckin), and soon it collapses. There is so much left unsaid in this play and a torrent of questions which are never attempted to be explained. All that matters is what happens on stage. The scene in which Ruth kisses both Joey (Richard Ridell) and Lenny (Jonathan Slinger) is utterly farfetched, but the believability of these characters renders it inevitable.
The cast of six could not be stronger. Slinger’s Lenny hints at effeminacy and it’s easy to see the cogs whirring, while Ridell offers a contrast as the more simple of the two younger brothers. It’s not difficult to see why Teddy moves out and makes a life for himself, as Justin Salinger plays him with a silent superiority. Des McAleer’s Uncle Sam is perhaps the only moral character in the play, and is given a run for his money by Nicholas Woodeson’s small but powerful Max. McGuckin, as the only female character, manages to command full attention without saying a word.
Jon Bausor’s design fits well into the space, merging the theatrical with the domestic, and is supported brilliantly by Jon Clark’s brooding lighting. Although The Homecoming hints towards a bygone era of patriarchy, we’re forced to consider our own views of masculinity. Every man works for himself as the woman is left stranded. But more important than this is the impossibility of true understanding when no one is willing to communicate the truth; it is this that makes this play Pinter’s masterpiece.