Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 14 May 2022
Harold Pinter's tale of North London family life has returned to
Newcastle's Theatre Royal this week.
The original production dates back to 1965 and reflects some of the attitudes
and values held by some of the people at that time.
Max is the elderly family patriarch. Keith Allen delivers a performance which
sharply observes a strong willed man who has clear opinions that they are
happy to voice. Living under his roof is his brother Sam (Ian Bartholomew)
who is a chauffeur, states that he is successful in his work, plus two of his sons.
These two sons are a direct contrast to one another. Matthew Horne
delivers a strong performance as Lenny, a man with a gift of the gab who earns
a living off the graft of others. Joey (Geoffrey Lumb) is a much quieter chap
who wants to be a boxer but works in demolition until he makes it.
Max also has a third son who decides to make a homecoming visit without any
warning. Teddy (Sam Alexander) lectures at a university in the United States
and he got married to Ruth (Shanaya Rafaat) six years ago in London but did
not mention it to the rest of the family. So Max is surprised when Teddy and Ruth
both appear without warning.
The action then unfolds as each, very different, character tries to get along with
the new arrivals. What is clever is that the action is as much about what is not
actually said than what is said. If, for example, Lenny spouts his opinion then it is
the awkward silence and furtive looks that follow that makes the situation.
Having said that, the situation is not easy to unpack. At times it is strange
and absurd. You also have values presented that are at odds with present day
thinking. Attitudes towards women, for example, can make this a tough watch.
The mid-60s tale is of its time. The cast deliver an emphatic performance that is
interesting, however don’t expect to make sense of it all - I know I didn’t. Some
of the reactions, or the lack of them, are not what you always expect.
Review: Stephen Oliver
Photos: Manuel Harlan