The Theatreguide.London Review
Almeida Theatre Spring 2008
Harold Pinter's 1965 ultimate-dysfunctional-family play is given a solid revival under Michael Attenborough's direction, neither breaking new ground nor illuminating the text in any special new way, but serving the play well so that its strengths are all on display.
(Briefly, an all-male East London household is shaken up by the surprise return of the prodigal son and his wife, affecting the various relationships and power politics of the family in unexpected and - judging by some gasps from the audience - still shocking ways.)
The play is about the jockeying for power that underlies almost every encounter and interaction, all the more desperate when the combatants feel unsure of their strength, and about the way a woman has an automatic advantage in this ongoing battle, just because of the sexual energy she brings to the table.
Pinter characteristically doesn't spell any of this out, but just lets the people behave, sometimes bizarrely, leaving it to us to recognise the reality.
Those who know the play will find these actors bringing some fresh characterisations that generally work as well as more familiar interpretations.
Kenneth Cranham makes father Max more active than some of his predecessors, but also telegraphs his impotence from the start, as his anger and threats have no real energy behind them, the old man just waving the flag of a power he no longer has.
As a result, Nigel Lindsay doesn't have to push Alpha-son Lenny too hard. This Lenny has got a little flabby, perhaps, with no one to really have to fight against, and the sudden threat of Jenny Jules' Ruth catches him off guard, so you can see him scrambling to get up to full steam.
Anthony O'Donnell's uncle Sam is higher up in the family pecking order than some have played him, and Danny Dyer's Joey is more a vapid pretty boy than dull-witted thug, but both characterisations work.
Neil Dudgeon plays the back-from-America Teddy with a boyish openness that suggests he has worked hard to Americanise himself, only later showing the strain of maintaining what he labels his 'intellectual equilibrium.'
The only weak link is Jenny Jules - she's sexy enough, but she makes the leap from passive to dominant too abruptly, without sketching in enough sense of the character.
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