HARLOW THEATRE COMPANY.
A pack of feral men, living in a house ruled over by the patriarch, Max, his sons Lenny, a pimp, and Joey, the youngest, a boxer. Forced into the feminine role is Sam, Max’s brother, unmarried, a chauffeur, dedicated to his job as the best in the business, if you listen to him that is. With no female influence, they rigidly stick to their masculine order, each knowing where they are in their self harming food chain. Into this pack returns prodigal son Teddy, an academic who fled to America, and his wife Ruth. Immediately they begin prowling round her, enforcing rigid definitions of whore and mother upon her, for them the ideal woman. But Ruth is having none of it.
I have waited a long time to see a production of The Homecoming that successfully serves the text and the acting demands, and Jane Miles has created an extraordinary production that shimmers with sexual tension, power and comedy. The set and lighting design are a perfect canvas for the drama to be played out, and a mesmerising cast brought each character vividly to life. As Max, Barry Bowen perfectly captured the flip that his nature goes through, one minute berating women and Ruth as whores, the next delivering a sermon on the beauty and dignity of motherhood, lashing out at his sons and brother, a dislikeable man made human by Pinter’s waspish humour. Outstanding in performance was Joe Bishop as Lenny, a still, unhurried presence of threat and violence preparing to take over the role of head of the family that he believes is his, bullying and dominating. As Joey, Tyrone Samuels radiated his need for emotional nurturing, never taking his eyes off Ruth. Paul Johnson was simply outstanding as Sam, bubbling with secret lives and undercurrents of need, his face saying a thousand words.
Mitch Rous as Teddy perfectly captured the impotence of the character, degrees and knowledge accounting for nothing in this world, but still his family insist they are proud of him. And Pam Self-Pierson was outstanding as Ruth, quietly asserting her dominance over the group until she ends up sitting in Max’s chair with the men defeated at her feet, or isolated like Lenny. (The scene between Ruth and Lenny involving a glass of water perfectly played as an exercise in dominance). She decides to stay and work as a prostitute for the family-under her terms and conditions. Sexual slavery or sexual freedom? Fifty years on the debate rages and it’s a credit to the play that it still does. But, for me, this production made clear that rigid and old fashioned structures of masculinity are not worth clinging onto, they are literally destroying men.
Jane Miles allows the text and the silence to speak for itself, no flashy directorial add ons, perfectly pacing the production. I wanted the company of a recent professional production to be made to watch it and learn how to perform Pinter. An outstanding production- do not call this amateur!
PAUL T. DAVIES
Paul T Davies is a critic for Britishtheatre.com and kindly provided this unofficial review for Harlow Theatre Company.
Max – Barry Bowen
Lenny – Joe Bishop
Sam – Paul Johnson
Joey – Tyrone Samuels
Teddy – Mitch Rous
Ruth – Pam Self-Pierson
Director – Jane Miles
Set Design – Brett Stevens
Lighting Design – Tom Richards
Sound Design – Sarah Wiggins
Costume Design – Denise Rouse, Hollie Mai Smedley,
Properties – Alex Appleton
Art Design – Paul Johnson
Production Manager – Alyssa Upton
Stage Manager – Sam Stevens
Lighting Operator – Helga Kilroy
Sound Operator – Sarah Wiggins
ASMs Alyssa Upton – Alex Appleton
Wardrobe – Helga Kilroy
Set Construction: Brett Stevens, Steve Dove, Leo Appleton,
Sarah Green, Melissa Guest
Rehearsal Prompter – Helga Kilroy
Marketing – Mel Guest
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank our sponsors for their support throughout 2016 and 2017. Also; Carpetright, Dave Wright, Marion Dove, Cath Lamb, Alex and Leo Appleton for their invaluable involvement in this production.