Misogyny with a capital M takes centre stage in Jamie Lloyd’s tense, compacted production of Pinter’s ‘The Homecoming’ at Trafalgar Studios.
Lloyd’s pumped up Pinter loses none of its punch or ability to shock audiences 50 years on in this very modern, cinematographic interpretation with its cool blend of stark staging, lightning flashes between scenes and pulsating sixties soundtrack. John Simm delivers a standout performance as perfectly-suited, leering pimp Lenny, with his dangerously clipped dialogue and squirmingly sinister stare.
Eldest son and academic Teddy (Gary Kemp) returns to his North London home after being away in America for six years. Teddy brings his wife Ruth (Gemma Chan) along to ‘meet’ the family for the first time and we realize that there are deep rifts in this household. Father Max (Ron Cook) is a stick wielding bully and former butcher whose misogynism is deep-rooted and his loathing seems to extend to all those around him.
It is an all-male ‘home’, Max’ wife Jessie, having passed away. As we learn that Jessie had an affair with Max’ best friend, we begin to wonder how she met her demise. No love is lost between Max and his son Lenny who taunts the old man, inciting further violent exchanges. His youngest son, a boxer, is a more silent, awkward presence and we wonder what the story is behind his obvious pent-up aggression. Keith Allen plays the less brutal and somewhat camp brother Sam “best chauffeur in the firm” who seems to take pride in his work and recoils at the violence displayed by Max and Lenny.
We see Ruth initially as an elegant, slightly uptight wife who is obviously unhappy in some way, but as the play progresses her mask begins to slide and she begins to toy with her captive male audience. As Ruth ends up agreeing to stay in the pugilistic house, rife with brutality and abuse, we are left to wonder who is controlling who and indeed who has won. Ruth seems to be asserting her true identity by throwing off the shackles of motherhood and marriage, but in doing so she is assenting to become the private whore and skivvy for her ex-husband’s family and a business investment for Lenny – a troubling ending for many.