Thursday, 11 February 2016

GARY KEMP'S HOMECOMING

I made it under the wire to this play at Trafalgar Studios last night - it concludes this weekend - and I'm thrilled that I did. Gary Kemp was the point, and I am so proud of him. It seems an age, it is, since we worked with Spandau Ballet at Chrysalis in the mad old days.
 Patience. Everything comes to us in the right moment. David Bowie said that 'ageing is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person that you always should have been.' While no one would wish to wipe the Spandau years from collective memory, nor Gary's enduring songs, he's through the barricade now. What a present, plausible, committed actor he is. He must be mindful of his years at Anna Scher's children's theatre in Islington, where this sophisticated talent was kindled, moons ago.
It's a difficult piece. Oft lauded as Pinter's finest, it bears revisitation in this its fiftieth year, and is none the lamer nor the tamer for it. Set in a working class north London home, all too familiar territory to Gary, its focus is a cracked marriage re-examined against the backdrop of a vicious family who refuse to escape their awful past. The text is cryptic and cruel. Themes of sex and power deafen and haunt. Let it go, this clan of misfits and bitter woebegones will not do.
The spaces between the strokes. The dark beyond the light. Pinter magnifies every splinter, figurative and actual, to the point of exquisite pain. Raw irony that son Teddy, Gary's clipped and stunted character (even his swallowed accent, mannerisms and body language are an escape from himself) is an academic, a Doctor of Philosophy at a college in America, who lacks comprehension of family values and the meaning of love. The symbolism of an invisible mirror on the wall into which the actors peer, looking out into the audience, stuns us with recognition that we are Alice: through the play and out the other side, actually looking at ourselves.
The oppressed woman - Teddy's wife Ruth - has been forced to live a fake life all these years. She finds herself - the true homecoming - and the play is her triumph.

Gemma Chan, Keith Allen, Ron Cook and John Simm enchanted. Bravos. But it was Gary's night, all right.

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