Directed by Peter Hall. USA. 1973.
Set in an older but spacious house in North London, the men prowl around each other like animals ready for the kill. Their mother Jessie is dead. The remaining family consists of two brothers, their father and uncle. Max (Paul Rogers), the menacing, slightly demented but still roaring old patriarch is a retired butcher with an acid tongue. His brother, Sam, a chauffeur is an unmarried man in his sixties and something of a dandy. The brothers are both working class louts. Lenny, delightfully performed by a dapper Ian Holm, is a sleazy pimp and borderline criminal, while Joey (Terence Rigby) is a demolitions expert and would-be boxer who spends most of his spare time training at the local gym.
The equilibrium is disturbed when the oldest brother Teddy (Michael Jayston), a Professor of Philosophy, arrives with Ruth, his wife of nine years Ruth (Pinter's wife at the time, Vivien Merchant) in London to visit the family she has never met. The focus of the hostility is now focused on the young couple and the father unleashes one tirade after another, calling Ruth a slut and a whore. From the beginning there is tension in the relationship between Teddy and Ruth and they both seem uncomfortable. The dialogue between family members is filled with comic touches and the characters use threats, intimidation, and power games to gain advantage over each other. Even Ruth, a woman who has been exploited successfully plays off one brother against the other and both against her husband. Rationality becomes less and less apparent as the play progresses with the two younger brothers making passes at Ruth in front of her bewildered and strangely passive husband. Teddy only watches as Ruth joins with his brothers, perhaps because he realizes that on the deepest level he has been separate from her for years.
is a work that does not yield to immediate deciphering and has given critics
much to chew on for thirty-nine years. Pinter's plays are not about psychological
realism and the actions of his characters are not always coherent or rational.
He moves easily from realism to surrealism, and it is often difficult to
distinguish between the reality and the dream. One critic said, "Like Buñuel,
Pinter demonstrated that only a slight shift in perspective is needed to
make human behaviour appear insane, and showed how easily the veneer of
'civilization' can be swept aside in favour of something more revealing".
The Homecoming can be looked at it in many ways and there is enough
ambiguity to allow the audience to interpret it from their own frame of
reference. As Pinter biographer Michael Billington notes, "You can never
say with Pinter that one interpretation is wholly right or another wholly
wrong. What you can say, with reasonable certainty, is that the play continues
to get under our collective skins". It definitely got under mine but I
loved every minute of it.
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