The Homecoming

May 17 2018 | By More

★★★☆☆     Reverent

Festival Theatre Studio: Wed 16 – Sat 19 May 2018
Review by Hugh Simpson

Fidelity to the text characterises Leitheatre’s The Homecoming at the Festival Theatre Studio. The result is a well-crafted production that could probably do with showing a little less respect.

Harold Pinter’s 1964 play depicts Teddy, a North London boy made good who has returned from America to introduce his wife to his family. The power games which follow are ambiguous in terms of both plot and morality.

Brian Thomson, Dougie Arbuckle and Ewan Jardine. Pic: Carol Hajducka

Depending on your point of view, it is either a darkly enigmatic exploration of family and desire, or a melodrama that wilfully withholds information in order to appear absurd.

Either way, it needs to be played with genuine commitment to do justice to the play’s tension and humour. Under the able direction of Lynne Morris, the cast manage this pretty well. If there is a fault, it is that the text is treated over-reverently at times, when it should be attacked with more gusto.

It seems odd that a production of Pinter – famous for his use of long pauses – could be accused of lacking pace, but that is definitely the case here. The stateliness of much of the dialogue between the pauses not only affects the comedy, it also means that the sinister moments are not as clearly defined.

There is sufficient light and shade to keep things flowing, however, thanks in large part to Dougie Arbuckle’s performance as Lenny, the sociopathic pimp, embodying the sleazy, self-obsessed violence of the middle brother throughout.

pauses and long monologues

Because of the pauses and long monologues that punctuate the play, characters are often on stage for a long time without saying much, and some of the cast are not quite as convincing when they are not the direct focus of the action.

Brian Thomson, Dougie Arbuckle and Lindsay Corr in rehearsal. Pic Carol Hajducka

The only drawback to Arbuckle’s variety of tone is that there are a couple of occasions when he becomes a little too quiet for even the relatively small space of the Studio – a problem which also occasionally afflicts Lindsay Corr as Ruth, Teddy’s wife. Otherwise, Corr’s glacial performance as the unfathomable object of male fantasy is very effective.

Brian Thomson, as Max, the patriarch of the family, turns in a suitably forbidding performance, even if at time he seems a little too cuddly for his aggression and spite to be completely believable. Hamish Hunter gives Max’s brother Sam a defeated pride and wounded dignity that is probably the most realistic thing on display.

Alan Richardson (Teddy) and Ewan Jardine (youngest brother Joey) both manage to give their characters’ apparently inexplicable motives a degree of believability due to grounded performances.

Technically the production is extremely sound, with Stephen Hajducki’s set – detailed enough to evoke the period, but expansive enough for the action – a particular highlight.

extreme delicacy

If not all of the accents manage to make it all of the way to London, it can be forgiven. Indeed, the efforts involved in trying to sound Cockney only slow things down further.

Ewan Jardine, Alan Richardson and Brian Thomson. Pic: Carol Hajducka

The trouble with all of this extreme delicacy is that it points up the ludicrousness of what is going on. It all starts to seem like an episode of a soap opera you have never watched before, where people are doing terribly dramatic things but their motivations are a mystery.

It has been suggested that the characters’ cherished backstories are as fictitious as their unrealistic ambitions, and this has never been as true as it is here – you don’t believe that Teddy really teaches philosophy in America any more than you believe that Joey will one day be a famous boxer.

Which adds to the strangeness, but does not make it any more satisfactory. This is largely down to the source material rather than this production, which lacks something in energy but nothing in careful intent.

Running time 2 hours 15 minutes including one interval
Studio at Festival Theatre, 22 Potterrow, EH8 9BL
Wednesday 16 – Saturday 19 May 2018
Daily at 7.30 pm
Tickets at

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The script to The Homecoming is available to buy from Amazon. Click on the image for details:

Lindsay Corr, Ewan Jardine, Dougie Arbuckle, Alan Richardson, Brian Thomson and Hamish Hunter. Pic: Carol Hajducka


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