THE HOMECOMING: Harold Pinter
RSC, The Swan, Stratford Upon Avon
Runs: 2h 20m, till 15 October
Review: Rod Dungate, 03 08 2011
Too self-consciously Pinteresque
Watching this production is oddly disconcerting; we sit as disinterested observers of a highly indulgent and stylised game. Not exactly what we go to the theatre for.
It’s no secret that Pinter is a writer with, at one time, a unique stye – the word Pinteresque is now coined. But Pinter’s style stems from the way he uses natural or realistic dialogue in, what should be, recognisable, even bland, settings. It’s the way people behave in these recognised settings and the frequently seething tensions and violence below the surface that disturb.
But Farr has perversely decided to encourage his actors to perform the style; instead of having things seething below the surface, these are layered on top – leaving a vacuum below. Characters speak to each other, then suddenly shout at the top of their voices; we wonder Where did that come from? It makes no sense, we cannot contextualise it. The play is impotent. Actors constantly speak the tunes of lines rather than speaking what the lines mean; coupled with ponderous delivery, the production is frequently portentous.
Too frequently, too, the East London characters speak in an accent which can best be described as a theatrical stereotype of an East London accent, with performers appearing to be little aware of the real vernacular they are using. Richard Riddell (Joey) is a notable exception to his; he feels – and looks – as if he’s stepped from the East End.
Nicholas Woodeson has bags of energy as Max, the elderly father, but fails to convince us that he’s really a vile bully he is meant to be. Aislin McGuckin comes off best; for the most part – there are occasional lapses – she avoids the style pitfalls and is, what Ruth is, enigmatic, confused, sexy, eventually disturbingly comfortable.
Farr has either gone down the wrong path with this one or is more intent on presenting himself through the play than in presenting the play Pinter wrote.
Max: Nicholas Woodeson
Lenny: Jonathan Slinger
Sam: Des McAleer
Joey: Richard Riddell
Teddy: Justin Salinger
Ruth: Aislin McGuckin
Diected by: David Farr
Designed by: Jon Bausor
Lighting Desinged by: Jon Clark
Sound Designed by: Martin Slavin
Movement by: Kate Sagovsky
Dialect Coach: Edda Sharpe
Assistant Director: Lisa Blair
Casting by: Helena Palmer