The Homecoming, Norwich

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Butcher, boxer, pimp and PhD play for high stakes, only to discover that in this particular pack the blonde is the joker who wins the final trick and scoops the pool.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Harold Pinter paints an odd situation, a game of unhappy families really. Butcher, boxer, pimp and PhD play for high stakes, only to discover that in this particular pack the blonde is the joker who wins the final trick and scoops the pool.

This production of The Homecoming at the Maddermarket is fluently directed by David Gwyn Harris, who has also designed the rock-firm set that reminds us that some things never change, even if people imagine they can alter them.

And an especially strong cast knows just how to build up personalities so that substance is given to clever dialogue and the situations that do not stop surprising until the very end.

From Vince Hadley's open lines the atmosphere is heavy and uneasy.Memories of the past generally seem to disturb, the present is always uncomfortable, psychologically as well as physically and we soon come to appreciate that the future does not hold out much promise either.

The men are already thrashing about when Ruth (Kristen May) arrives. Up goes the temperatures, and she, as we soon see, is not the one to cool it.

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Pre-echoing events and judgements, symbols cunningly reinforce the fabric of this hard-bitten modern comedy that is at once very amusing and quite repulsive while realistic detail makes it more persuasive at every twist.

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