Review: Double dealing spies in Hapgood, Hampstead Theatre
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Review: John Simm and Gemma Chan in The Homecoming, Trafalgar Studios

Ron Cook in The Homecoming. Photography by Marc Brenner

Loved Jamie Lloyd's production of Harold Pinter's The Hothouse a couple of years ago. He's teamed up with John Simm for another Pinter, The Homecoming, which is a very different beast to The Hothouse.

Set in the front room of a north London home, Max (Ron Cook) is the head of the household. A long-time widow and retired butcher he's set in his ways and irascible, partly because he's losing his authority over the family. He is vitriolic, punishes with his fists and there are hints of other abuse but middle son Lenny (John Simm) is no longer scared of him and switches between taunting him to affecting an air of indifference which just rattles Max all the more.

Lenny is a pimp and youngest son Joey (John MacMillan) is training to be a boxer. Sam (Keith Allen) is Max's younger brother who has never married and still lives in the family home. He's a chauffeur "the best in the firm", is slightly camp and has little of the hard edge of his brother which therefore makes him an easy target.

Into the psychological and physical battles being waged in the house steps eldest son Teddy (Gary Kemp) and his new wife Ruth (Gemma Chan). Teddy has been living in America where he's a philosophy lecturer. He has never told his family about his wife or their three sons and Ruth rattles the male-dominated household.

Max and Lenny believe women are either wives, mothers or whores but Ruth can't be pigeon-holed in that way. This is her homecoming too, having grown up in the same area and in some ways, she's come home to roost being discontent with her life in America.  She quietly disarms them all, constantly surprising them. Gemma Chan's Ruth is a contradiction of calm fluidity and around her she creates a whirlwind.

The cast of The Homecoming make Pinter's pauses pregnant with subtext. This is a production that is just as much about what is left unsaid as what is and the result is something that is tense, revealing and darkly comic. All doors and stairs of the set lead to the living room and at the start, Max is sat in his chair in the centre of it but it is Ruth that is in his place by the end.

You can catch The Homecoming at the Trafalgar Studios until February 13 and it is about two hours and 15 minutes long.