Tag Archives: Mathew Horne


The Homecoming


Cambridge Arts Theatre


The Homecoming

Cambridge Arts Theatre

Reviewed – 11th April 2022



“this work remains a classic of the twentieth century and this superb revival is much welcomed”


Many people claim this to be Pinter’s finest play and this excellent production, superbly directed by Jamie Glover, certainly provides evidence for that argument. The strong ensemble doesn’t put a foot or sideways glance wrong, each character drawing our attention in turn.

An astonishing set (Liz Ashcroft) of huge height provides a surreal touch to the proceedings, comprising an impressive backdrop of dark green flocked wallpaper and the most unlikely of tallest staircases that makes each entrance and exit take an age. We wait in anticipation as Max, painfully, stick in hand, clambers down each step. Ruth, however, milks every moment of her regal descent towards the downstairs room of eager men.
Subdued lighting (Joanna Town) from a high ceiling lamp and corner standard lamps creates a brooding atmosphere: light falling onto the wallpaper from the offstage landing windows and from the opening front door, and alarming shadows created through the side window. Dramatic silhouetted freeze-frames between scenes enhance the sinister nature of the goings-on and heighten the tension.

Max (Keith Allen), permanently wearing a flat cap, is the cantankerous and misogynistic head of the household played with a touch of Alf Garnett but with the humour far darker than in any sitcom. He is vulnerable too as the weakness of his impending old age begins to be exploited by the middle son Lenny (Matthew Horne). With brilliantined hair and dapper blue suit, Lenny casually boasts of his needless violence. Joey (Geoffrey Lumb) is the youngest son, a wannabe boxer with little hope of success. The homecoming of the title is that of eldest son Teddy (Sam Alexander), a well-spoken university teacher who has been away for six years and arrives home unannounced with his wife Ruth (Shanaya Rafaat). Max’s brother Sam (Ian Bartholomew) makes up the household, an unassuming chauffeur bullied by his brother, weak and possibly impotent, but who knows the hidden stories of the family.

The central chair is the position of power. Mostly occupied by Max – even Teddy knows that it is his father’s favourite seat – both Lenny and Ruth get their turns to sit in it. The production’s tour image puts Ruth in this armchair held up by four men – she is literally put on a pedestal – and this implied, but uncertain, outcome to the story is one of the enigmas of the play.

All six members of the cast are outstanding, and it is the combined strength of the ensemble – an angry stare, a disapproving pout, a suggestive smirk across the stage – that marks this production as exceptional. But first among equals is the alluring performance by Shanaya Rafaat. No wonder Max cannot take his eyes off her as she draws the men closer with a gentle movement of a leg, her passive demeanour and softly spoken syllables contrasting with the brutality and estuary vowels of the household.

Whether any contemporary playwright would countenance using such casual misogynistic attitudes as a source of humour in a new play must be doubtful, this work remains a classic of the twentieth century and this superb revival is much welcomed.


Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Manuel Harlan


The Homecoming

Cambridge Arts Theatre until 16th April then UK tour continues


Recently reviewed at this venue:
Dial M For Murder | ★★★ | October 2021
Tell me on a Sunday | ★★★ | September 2021
The Good Life | ★★ | November 2021
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | February 2022


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The Miser – 3*

The Miser

Garrick Theatre

Reviewed 14th March 2017


“a joyous evening with jolly japes aplenty”


At 350 years old, or thereabouts, Molière’s ‘The Miser’ arrives in the West End with a revival that surely the playwright himself would approve of.

‘Freely adapted’  by Sean Foley and Phil Porter, the original five act comedy is nicely condensed into a much more manageable two acts.

Griff Rhys Jones makes a welcome return to the stage in the title role (Harpagon), while Lee Mack makes his West End debut as Maître Jacques, The Miser’s cook, coachman, executioner and general dogsbody. Mathew Horne as Valère, Harpagon’s mistrusted employee, makes up the ‘names’ in the cast.

Remaining faithful(ish) to the original plot, and still set in the reign of Louis XIV – ( “the Arc de Triomphe isn’t built for another 150 years”) – there’s a modern spin on the dialogue with many a topical reference thrown in; zero hours contracts, Trump and Sport Direct all get a mention.

A lot of the humour is a tad puerile, for instance two characters afflicted with speech impediments lead to predictable, yet amusing, situations; Katy Wix as Elise has trouble with her Rs, so it’s a sure fire guarantee she’s going to have to say ‘rank’ at some stage. The spirit of Carry On lives on .. !

Katy Wix (most recently seen as Fergie on Channel 4’s The Windsors) was great fun to watch (even though at times she appeared to have morphed back into the Duchess!), as was the rather lispy Cléante (Ryan Gage) camping it up in some deeply garish outfits.

It was almost like watching one of those plays that Morecambe and Wise used to do, mixed up with a bit of  the Two Ronnies – the ‘marry Marianne’ dialogue in the first act could quite easily have been a Barker and Corbett sketch.

The slapstick elements weren’t as sharp as they could have been and paled alongside the visual gags of the likes of The Play That Goes Wrong. Lee Mack was hugely entertaining, but at times it felt like you were watching one of his shows and his gags felt a little too stylised for the plot.

Altogether though, a joyous evening with jolly japes aplenty but bordering at times on panto – Oh no it wasn’t  … Oh yes it was.


The Miser

is running until 3rd June at

The Garrick Theatre




Production Photography by Helen Maybanks