The Homecoming, Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

4.00

When Peter Hall founded the RSC in 1961, one of his guiding principles was that Shakespeare should be presented in dynamic, mutually illuminating relation to new playwrights. Harold Pinter was the linchpin of this policy. So, as the company celebrates its 50th birthday, it's fitting that it should programme a major revival of one the classic Pinter plays premiered under its auspices – even if the Swan Theatre, with its thrust stage and stacked, horse-shoe-shaped seating is an awkward space for such an intrinsically proscenium arch drama as The Homecoming (1965).

David Farr's assured, savagely funny production proves that this play has lost none of its capacity to discomfit and affront. If you were to imagine an out-of-time collaboration between, say, Ibsen and Hugh Hefner, you'd get some dim idea of the diabolical way the play merges a calculatedly controversial recipe for female liberation with a male porno fantasy. The piece resembles a blackly comic parody of a meet-the-folks drama when prodigal son Teddy, a professor of philosophy in America, returns to introduce Ruth, his wife of six years, to his unsavoury north London family.

In Nicholas Woodeson's superb performance, his father Max, an ex-butcher, struggles to continue to lord it over the men-only household like some flat-capped stick-wielding cockney-Jewish Lear, the ferocity of his rants and the aggression of his emasculating jibes against his boys and brother an index of his failing powers in the Oedipal contest for dominance. As a would-be titillating chat-up line, the pimp son, Lenny (an archly piss-taking Jonathan Slinger) treats his newly discovered sister-in-law to intimidating stories about his penchant for violence against women.

Aislin McGuckin's excellent Ruth radiates provocative poise and self-amusement as she crosses and uncrosses her legs and starts to beat these men at their own power games. But even though her husband (Justin Salinger) seems to put up no fight for her beyond a stricken, supercilious smile, American academe would surely have to be very arid indeed for her to choose to remain as the madonna/whore in his jungle, paying for her keep on her back in Greek Street and, we gather, at home. The play's horrible power partly stems from the lack of any explicit critique of this notion of empowerment, though there is an indirect one here as the red light intensifies over the final grisly tableau of a travesty pieta, replete pimp, corpse, and stroke-afflicted patriarch.

In rep to 15 October (0844 800 1110)

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea