For this staging of what is generally regarded as Pinter’s masterpiece, director Damian Cruden has asked for more creativity from his actors than is usual in director-led theatre. He wants them to feel unease when they take the stage, so offering something unique at each performance.
Tension and ambiguity will obviously benefit, although the play’s cruel humour will need more disciplined playing. Some situations are slipping into the area of absurdist theatre, amusingly shocking rather than nasty.
Paul Shelley’s playing of Max, the ageing father in an all-male household, is not always as cruel as it should be - he and his sons should lack any emotion. There is derision and threat in their dialogue and their humour. Robert Pickavance is excellent as Max’s unmarried brother Sam, the only character with a glimmer of regret. A neat, careful man rather than camp.
An unexpected late-night visit from Teddy, another son, gives the play its title. He is an academic based in the US, and he has - to everyone’s surprise - an attractive wife. The wife attracts Max’s two other sons and she agrees to their suggestion to stay with them, but only on her terms. Sam Hazeldine plays Lennie, a son who may be a pimp, with chilling emptiness.
Dawn Allsopp’s living room set is at 45 degrees to the audience with deliberately emphasised perspective. It is a clear metaphor for the lack of emotional balance in this family.
Audiences usually feel drained and chastened after seeing The Homecoming, but this is not quite true with this production.