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Criterion Theatre
The Homecoming (2024)
Written by Harold Pinter
Sat 22nd June to Sat 29th June
Director – John Ruscoe
Production Photos
Max – Hugh Sorrill
Lenny – Ted Mcgowan
Joey – Connor Bailey
Ruth – Leonie Slater
Assistant Director – Helen Withers
Set Designer – Christopher Hernon
Stage Manager – Steve Withers
Prompt – Claire McDermott
Props – Les Rahilly
Wardrobe – Pam Coleman
Lighting Designer – Paul Harrison
Sound Designer – David Chapman
Lighting Operator – Karl Stafford
Lighting Operator – Verity Gillam-Greene

"It’s a cathartic experience, and in The Criterion’s immaculate production and Pinter’s fast and funny dialogue, one not to be missed."

Nick LeMesurier, Warwickshire World

Teddy has had no contact with his family for several years and returns to his childhood home, bringing with him his wife, Ruth. How will they react to him after all this time and what impact will he have on the struggle for supremacy in this toxic, all-male stronghold? And Ruth? How will she deal with the sexist attitudes and expectations of her in-laws when she is longing for the freedom of her past?

The play revisits some of Pinter’s well-known themes of intrusion, power, memory and non-conformity. The dialogue is superbly crafted and, as in life, what we hear merely suggests underlying thoughts or feelings. The role of the onlooker is to piece together the clues and to consider what might be the truth. The action is at times aggressive, yet darkly comic and the play’s ending will certainly provoke debate.

The Homecoming was premiered in London in 1965. On its transfer to Broadway, it won 4 Tony awards including that for Best Play, establishing a worldwide reputation for Pinter as one of the foremost playwrights of the 20th Century. In 2005, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, 3 years before his death. This play has been frequently revived in this country and across the world. Its relevance remains universal.

The Criterion production of The Homecoming will be of particular interest to Theatre Studies and English Literature students, but not be suitable for young children.

Reviews of the Play

"What to make of it in our post #MeToo age?...captures how fear, awe and neediness lie at the heart of misogyny." Arifa Akbar, The Guardian.

"There is a direct line to draw from the world of this play to the online toxic masculinity of today... This is a story about the impossibility of escaping your past, or your nature" Nick Curtis The Evening Standard.

EDI Assessment

In line with our EDI policy, we undertake an EDI impact assessment of all our artistic programming. This play deals with themes of misogyny, toxic masculinity and patriarchal control at the heart of a family. Set as a period piece in 1960s London, the play uses anachronistic language and portrays attitudes that were prevalent at the time. It can be cast completely neutrally on race/ethnicity. For the story narrative, playing genders are specified.

Ah, the family. The heart of the community, the place where love rules and comfort can be found. Only, of course, it is not. Certainly, it is not in Harold Pinter’s 1965 play, The Homecoming, running this week at The Criterion Theatre, Earlsdon, Coventry.

Four men, father Max (Hugh Sorriill), and his brother Sam (Dave Grove) and two of Max’s sons Lenny (Ted Mcgowan), Joey (Connor Bailey) live together in a cramped north London house where their mother died. This is a house full of hate, mainly towards women but also towards each other. It’s what keeps them together. Into it returns a third son, Teddy (Chris Stanford), who had escaped to America to become a university teacher with (somewhat implausibly) a doctorate in philosophy and who is home for a visit, bringinghis wife, Ruth (Leonie Slater) with him. The homecoming of the title refers, in Ruth’s case, to an exchange, her life and children in America for this hellhole of a family, over which she will in the course of the play, reign supreme.

No-one could say The Homecoming is a comfortable play to watch. But in every line and every twist of the many knives thrust into each other, it is riveting, and often very funny in a dark sort of way. John Ruscoe’s direction and the whole production, from the cast to the magnificently recreated set, do it full justice.

Ruth is, of course, the catalyst that brings the tensions between the men out into the open. She seems to come from the same background as the lads, but doesn’t belong there. Nor does she belong in America. In fact, in a typical Pinteresque touch, one wonders if she and Teddy’s claim to live the university life in America is true at all. In a way, it doesn’t matter, because Ruth is the woman they deserve. Part mother, part whore, she makes no secret of her ambitions to seize control of the men’s attention and passions. So, she kisses Lenny in front of her husband and goes to bed with Joey (though they “don’t go the whole hog”) while Teddy squirms and suffers downstairs. Leonie Slater plays her like a goddess, remote, self-interested, alluring. Though she has relatively few lines to speak, her presence, and especially her gaze - one blink of an eye or one raised eyebrow speaking volumes - are fascinating and somewhat terrifying, to watch.

Misogyny is at the heart of the play. The boys fear and loathe women. So much so that they plan to want Ruth to stay, so long as they can pimp her as their prostitute. But Ruth has other ideas which don’t challenge their sordid little plans but through sheer force of her will and the men’s own culpability exploit them to her own advantage.

There’s not much in the way of saving grace in The Homecoming. But while it certainly casts a dark shadow over this corner of humanity, watching it leaves one feeling relieved, cleansed, in part because one (probably) does not live like that, but also because one has looked into this heart of darkness and seen it for what it is. It’s a cathartic experience, and in The Criterion’s immaculate production and Pinter’s fast and funny dialogue, one not to be missed.

Nick LeMesurier, Warwickshire World

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