I thought The
Homecoming was chilling and scary when I first saw it in the early 1970s.
It still is. The passage of time, though, has made it a lot easier to
understand, although the experience of seeing it in theatre is still gripping.
You want to know what these ghastly people are going to do and say next.
I hadnâ€™t realised forty years ago that itâ€™s a study in
repetition compulsion in that despite his PhD Teddy marries his mother and Ruth
acts out what the rest of the family are denying. Max immediately recognises
her as a whore, treats her as one, welcomes her into the family and shows that
he, too (as well as Teddy and Joey), wants to sleep with her. Pimp Lenny just
wants to make money out of her. Nasty stuff, only just redeemed by making Sam
some sort of moral yardstick or, at least, some sort of reflection of
Perhaps itâ€™s the non-ticking clock which keeps Lenny
awake that is the key metaphor in this production. Linear time is unimportant.
The present repeats and overlays the past and vice versa.
The play is superbly acted. Jonathan Slingerâ€™s Lenny,
is full of Pinteresque menace, every muscle controlled. Richard Riddellâ€™s Joey
is stolidly dim, devoid of feeling or evident brain activity. Nicholas Woodeson
as Max shows an enormous range of expression, changing like quicksilver. Aislin
McGuckinâ€™s Ruth is wholly controlled, enigmatic and inscrutable. Justin
Salingerâ€™s Teddy, rarely displaying any emotion at all, is just as chilling as
the rest. A ghastly crew. Des McAleerâ€™s Sam is the only character the audience
can begin to identify with. He tries to be creative in the kitchen and tries to
clean up dirty things. Sam dies, of course. In this world to speak the truth,
to reveal what life was really like in the past, is your death warrant. Attacks
of the heart are rare but fatal.
David Farrâ€™s production is coherent, superbly paced
and characterised by appropriate empty physical spaces. I wouldnâ€™t have missed
it, but I donâ€™t want to see it again. Itâ€™s a fine production of a beautifully
written hideous play.
P.S. Iâ€™m adding Jonathan Slinger, Richard Riddell and
Aislin McGuckin to my list of impressively versatile actors.