Pinter himself never pandered to questions about what his plays meant so far be it for me to attempt to do the same. The brilliance of a play like The Homecoming is his ability to divide and disturb the audience. But to do that his words need to have been gifted to a supremely skilful company, and by company I not only mean the cast but also the designers and above all the director.

This unmissable new production from Theatre Royal Bath has it all, from the moment the red velvets rise to reveal a gloweringly dark and oppressive set that reaches high into the fly tower, to the first and final appearances and words of the cast.

Keith Allen is every stooping inch the perfect Max, staggering about the stage spouting venom and vitriol, then swinging into cloying charm. His presence is unpredictable and disturbing.

Matthew Horne shows once again that his physical presence on stage can be menacing, a far cry from the loveable character that he is perhaps best know for. As Lenny he also shows that he is a masterful deliverer of lines, complex lines, long passages of grisly detail served rapid-fire and then closed with a sinister smile, it is very impressive.

Ian Bartholomew is every bit the vulnerable an oppressed Uncle Sam, clinging desperately to some semblance of dignity whilst his brother chips away at his very being.

Geoffrey Lumb is Joey, the seemingly passive brother, aspiring boxer and quiet presence on the stage and that stark contrast works so so well.

When philosopher brother Teddy arrives with wife Ruth the story starts to unravel. Sam Alexander’s Teddy is contained and measured even as things start to spiral out of control. Shanaya Rafaat is beautifully elegant and still, allowing the vile approaches of Max and Lenny to simply wash over her with no reaction. That is until things make their final twist and then she becomes the most powerful figure on the stage.

It’s not easy theatre, it is very much theatre of its time but here it is done with such assured energy and elegance and intensity that it works for today at the same time as reminding us of the importance of Pinter in theatre history, director Jamie Glover with this brilliant company has made sure of this.

Andrew Kay

Theatre Royal Brighton

2 May

Rating: ★★★★★

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