The Homecoming - Watford 1969

Programme Cover

The Homecoming
Palace Theatre Watford 4 - 15 February 1969
see also Acting for Stage

Lenny - Harold Pinter
Max - John Savident
Sam - Larry Noble
Joey - Terence Rigby
Teddy - Maurice Kaufmann
Ruth - Jane Lowe

Directed by Stephen Hollis
Sets - Noel Wildsmith
Designer - Noel Wildsmith
Lighting - Ian Pygot

In his own write
by Hilary Spurling

Anyone who saw The Homecoming, directed by Peter Hall, at the Aldwych four years ago ñ and anyone who recalls its pious gloom, its dire and somewhat spurious menace ñ would be well advised to make at once for Watford. For what is odd at Watford is the infectious gaiety of Stephen Hollisí new production: a production presided over, with engaging nonchalance, by the playwright himself as Lenny.
Mr Pinter makes an uncommonly natty pimp. And it is Lenny who, while rattling off some few doubts on the central tenets of Christian theism, pinpoints the playís apparent, and startling change of mood: ëWell, look at it this way,í says Lenny to his astounded relatives, ëhow can the unknown merit reverence?í In Mr Hallís view, of course, it can and generally does ñ and Mr Hall has been right as often as not. Indeed, there was the same sharp contrast between the first and second productions of Waiting for Godot (directed respectively by Mr Hall and Anthony Page) in London, as between the original Homecoming and this new and niftier version. Where, treading gingerly, Mr Hall has led the way, others have regularly followed at a friskier pace. Because, as Lenny also says, ëIt would be ridiculous to propose that what we know merits reverence. What we know merits any one of a number of things, but it stands to reason that reverence isnít one of them.í

Harold Pinter and Jane Lowe

Which explains no doubt why this production is at once so limpid and so extremely funny. Mr Pinterís Lenny, for instance ñ smooth, boastful and, like all his family, inordinately fond of hearing his own voice ñ is far less sinister than Ian Holmís formidable thug. So that Lennyís casual recollections of actual or projected killings bear as much or as little resemblance to reality as, say, his fatherís grandiose memories of his friend Mac (ëWe were two of the worst-hated men in the West End of Londoní); as his brother Joeyís astounding sexual prowess, or his Uncle Samís heroic exploits at the wheel of the Humber Snipe. Each is rapt, according to the ancient laws of English comedy, in contemplation of a weirdly transmogrified, grand and private vision of himself.
For the playís brilliance ñ and the chief pleasure of this production is the way in which it brings out the subtle colours and flavours of the text ñ lies precisely in this use of traditional comic techniques to explore new territory: to dissect the sentimentality, the rhetorical venom, the triumphant inconsequentiality of the cockney, his flair for making capital out of sheer ignorance, for smartly abandoning shaky ground in favour of the equally rickety, but opposite, position. Watch Max, for instance, shift from a nostalgic idyll of domestic bliss to quite another version ñ ëa crippled family, three bastard sons, a slutbitch of a wifeí ñ of the same scene. The speed and dexterity of these perpetual gear changes are breathtaking; John Savidentís voluble and dewlapped Max is a superb performance, and Larry Nobleís meek, sly Sam is another; Terence Rigby first created this marvellous gormless Joey at the Aldwych; and the whole is something no connoisseur should miss.
The Spectator, 9th February 1969
© The Spectator

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