gobsmacked by the homecoming

The last time I seriously went dabe-dew-tee-eff all the way was when I watched The New World with Paul.

That movie was so crap that you shouldn’t even get the pirated DVD, even though Colin Farrell was in it.

In no relation to the sentences above, yesterday I went to KLPac for the final performance of Harold Pinter’s Homecoming.

Harold Pinter is a seriously disturbed individual. And you think you have problems.

It was Gavin Yap’s direction and the remarkable performances by the cast that brought Pinter’s psychologically unstable mentality to a series of dabe-dew-tee-eff life.

Cast of 'The Homecoming'

Pinter was so off his rockets that my frequent moody bouts are Hannibal’s love and sunshine. FYI, Homecoming was written by Harold Pinter in 1965. It’s about a dude, Teddy (Ben Tan) who brought his wife, Ruth (Loo Jia-Wei) back to his dysfunctional family for a lil’ reunion. In the family home stays the patriarch Max (Thor Kah Hoong), Max’s brother Sam (Patrick Teoh) and Teddy’s two younger brothers, Lenny (U-En Ng) and Joey (Ian Cheang).

Several observations and thoughts; bear in mind that these are my own opinions having sat in the first row seat, very closely to the actors and being able to see their facial emotions and expressions:

1) Max came off as a spiteful, mean-spirited and sly person by nature, slightly frustrated with his present aging condition while he constantly reminisced his good old, more useful days. Did he or did he not sexually abused his three sons when they were young? When he said things like, “Remember when I tucked you in?” and “I used to give my sons baths”, his three sons were almost shamefully disgusted that you couldn’t help wondering what happened in the past that brought on this fearful hatred for their old man. Max also seemed to have some women issues, more notably when he spoke of his late wife, Jessie, praising her virtues then later saying, “Mind you, she wasn’t such a bad woman. Even though it made me sick just to look at her rotten stinking face, she wasn’t such a bad bitch.” So complex.

2) Lenny to me was the most disturbing character in the play. There were times he seemed to be struggling with himself, especially in the verbal exchange between him and Ruth. The personal demons within him were most unnerving. Most of the time he seemed to be a person who thought himself above any laws and that is quite scary. Think Luca Brasi from The Godfather unleashed, without allegiance to anyone. I think that of all three sons, Lenny was the only one not so afraid of the father, being able to publicly mock and dare him. When domineering Ruth showed up, he had a slight control problem; that was when he realised that he could appear to have controlled Ruth but both of them knew better.

3) Sam seemed to willingly allow Max to control him and fuck with his mind, most likely due to his adoration for Max’s deceased wife, Jessie than his brotherly love for Max (though he claimed otherwise). The reason he wasn’t so scary was because he was the only good, normal character in the entire play. But there are questions: what *really* happened between him and Jessie? Was he or was he not Teddy’s biological father? (“You were Jessie’s favourite son” in a pained, remembering look) What did he say before he collapsed and passed out/die? I couldn’t hear properly heh…

4) Joey was scary because he flagrantly disregarded all societal laws in his eager desire to shag his sister-in-law, not bothering to even conceal it to anyone, even from Teddy. ISN’T THAT SCARY?!?!?!? Was his desire for Ruth purely sexual? Was he really a smitten youth? Or was it because he had been deprived of a mother figure and Ruth somehow reminded him of Jessie? Does this mean that Lenny would have shagged his mother to, in his innocent thinking, protect and love her? ARGHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh scary!!!!!!!111111

5) Teddy came off as a rather weak man. Even though he attempted to leave his troubled family by migrating to the States, somehow he couldn’t totally break the connection. He appeared to have willingly blocked some bits from his past; telling Ruth that his family was nice and all seemed more to be an effort to reassure himself. He tried to take care of Ruth, but perhaps due to Ruth’s own faults and inconsistency, was unable to be a husband to Ruth. He certainly couldn’t protect her; his weakness largely showed when he was even giving Ruth the option to either stay and be a whore to his family, or go back to the States with him where their three children were waiting.

6) Ruth was… eh? How do you even begin to break down her character? I think Loo Jia-Wei did a pretty good job explaining Ruth, or rather her portrayal of Ruth here. Lainie suggested that Jia-Wei’s transformation from a cutesy wife to a slutty whore could have been more dramatic. I suppose so, though I guess that Jia-Wei was playing the silent seductress ftw. I guess the play would have been different if Ruth had been any different… I don’t know… Paul was clearly smitten anyhow. When Ruth said to Teddy, “Don’t be a stranger”, there was sadness in her tone.

I think Ruth is not an easy character to play. Jia-Wei quite portrayed her brilliantly from her own angle, and you do realise that this is her first stage performance? Yeay kudos! For the woman who won the power struggle within a family not entirely her own, who brought the men to their feet and knees… seriously, this character needs some in-depth examining.

7) Jessie was not given a body (she was dead, after all) but her presence spoke loud and clear throughout the play. Max seemed twistedly tormented by the memory of her, saying things like, “I’ve never had a whore under this roof before. Ever since your mother died.” Sam seemed to have clung on to her more positive attributes, of how warm and loving but lonely she was. Makes you think, eh? *wriggles eyebrows* Lenny’s mockery of women could have been brought on by mother’s demise, as in there was no women to take Lenny in hand.

Cast of 'The Homecoming' 2
You all made me want to join the nunnery.

This is not Winnie The Pooh. This is like, “oh my gawd, I don’t know what to think anymore”, coupled with the spectacular lighting, simple yet very fulfilling set design and the highly impressive actors. My favourite is of course Patrick Teoh but I am far from being biased, k. He was not a very main character, but he played his character to the fullest, if you know what I mean. I like.

Gavin Yap said that he wasn’t looking to make any statements with this play. Statements could also mean conspiratorial, tak-masuk-akal theories, like Ruth representing the women of Malaysia, seemingly downtrodden but champions in the end. Or Max could represent someone in the gomen, screwing up everybody’s lives. Or Ruth gulping down the glass of water meant the increasingly depleting oil supply. Or Joey exemplifying Ashton Kutcher. And Sam is actually Peter Tan. Harr?!?!?!?!?

But no lor. Throughout the play I didn’t find the need to explain, or make excuses for the story, fascinatingly perturbed as I was. One thing that kept going through my mind was, my gawd, this in Malaysia some more!!! — not the setting but the play actually allowed to be staged in Malaysia. But I applaud the bravery, the daring, the courage to do this. It opened my mind, filled me with lots of nervous happiness that you know, we have this kind of talent here and we *could* do these things, no matter how cuckoo. Obviously ‘we’ as in the actors’ talent — all I can do is be part of the appreciative audience. You know quality when you see it.

We watched the final show of The Homecoming, so unless you bombard the production people with tonnes of emails, there wouldn’t be anymore staging. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest that you start on the letters now. The show would leave you with many questions (Gavin Yap’s interpretation, that is) but you know, that is a good thing.

Also you don’t see any photos of us camwhoring do you? Yeah, we were that disturbed…

Essential links:

Homecoming official blog, and blog reviews by…
Midnite Lily, Lainie, Kim, Cheneille, Charleybean, Fireangel and ShaolinTiger.