|Micheal Jayston, Ian Holm,
Cyril Cusack, Terence Rigby
The Homecoming is Pinter's most tumultuous full-length
play as menacing as The Birthday Party, as mysterious as Old Times
but so full of wild essential life that questions about its meaning
seem secondary if not superfluous.
One need not define life when one can point to
it, which is what Pinter is doing in The Homecoming, with marvellous
control of exaggerated language and gesture that have the effect
of a fluoroscope. Pinter keeps giving us glimpses of interior
furies that most of us prefer not to acknowledge in the daytime.
For some peculiar reason these glimpses are often
hilariously funny. It may be that we laugh at the outrageous behaviour
of the Cockney family in The Homecoming for the same reason that
we laugh that the terrible things that happen to characters in
slapstick comedy, because it's happening to them and not to us.
The film, as far as I can tell from a reading
of this stage test, is a practically untouched adaptation of the
play though Hall's camera never seems to intrude on the life of
the play. It never embarrasses the actors by exposing them to
be what they are. Most of the action continues to take place in
the barren parlor of the North London house ruled by foul-mouthed
old Max (Paul Rodgers), the patriarch of a clan now reduced to
three, his sons Lenny (Ian Holm), and Joey (Terence Rigby) and
his younger brother Sam (Cyril Cusack) a chauffeur for a private
Vincent Canby, New York Times, November
Pinter's mischievous gift is to render everything
doubtful. Does Teddy really teach in America? Do he and his wife
really have three sons; have they honestly been in Venice on holiday?
And if any of all of the above is true, why do they arriveunannounced
in the middle of the night after nine years of silence, to see
a father who has not been told of the marriage of the grandchildren
in a house seething with frustration?
"You never heard such silences, " says a character
in The Homecoming " and it is true. The pauses are pregnant with
doubt, fear, triumph, pain, retreat and nasty calculation. The
words they employ are either banalities or the acid-tipped darts
of family warfare. Each man seems unable to keep his own identity
without shredding the egos of all the others in the house.
Pinter the entertainer makes the cross talk frequently
as funny as a vaudeville skit, except that the beautifully timed
chatter is always frosted with overtones- a need to defend, a
need to wound.
The homecoming shakes up the peckish order and
sets off a new scramble for places. Sam and Max, with some of
their comforting old lies apparently unmasked, have at the end
both wheezed through not quite fatal heart seizures. And the men
having been tyrannized for years by a woman, seem to have invited
a new tyranny. The homecomer leaves again, but whether it is a
humiliation or an escape is, like everything else, uncertain.
Within his absurd, almost ritual-like dramas, Pinter suggests
the real-enough lacerations we lay on each other, the failures
we conceal in the past, the unspoken deeds we go in fear of, the
speech we employ to conceal our thoughts and feelings.
The Homecoming is by any interpretation a scintillating
piece of work.
Charles Champlin, Los Angeles
Times, November 12, 1973