The Yes and No of Yes as Steve Howe’s band play York Barbican. Will this lead off Episode 92 of Two Big Egos In A Small Car?

Yes: Marking the 50th anniversary of Close To The Edge at York Barbican

AFFIRMATIVE! Culture podcasters Graham Chalmers and Charles Hutchinson look forward to Yes’s June 22 gig, then reappraise Fontaines DC’s Skinty Fia album, Francis Ford Coppola’s influential 1983 teen movie Rumble Fish and Harold Pinter’s rather difficult play The Homecoming.

To listen, head to:

REVIEW: Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming at York Theatre Royal, until Saturday

Sticking it to them: Keith Allen’s cruel patriach Max pours scorn on sons Teddy (Sam Alexander), left, and Lenny (Mathew Horne)

Theatre Royal Bath presents The Homecoming, York Theatre Royal, 7.30pm, tonight; 2.30pm and 7.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568 or

KEITH Allen, actor and comedian, reckons Jamie Glover’s revival of Harold Pinter’s bewildering 1965 psychodrama is the funniest of his three acquaintances with The Homecoming, spread over 25 years.

That assessment just adds to the puzzle emanating from Pinter’s fantasist family wars. Funny, you say, Keith? Well, not as in funny ha-ha, but darkly, bitterly humorous in its jaw-dropping mind games, sexual power plays and gruff misogyny, even more uncomfortable to observe in this age of #MeToo and heightened gender politics.

As a programme note forewarns, Pinter gave short shrift to “any director or actor who dared to ask him what a line or a scene might actually mean”. You may well be on the side of those befuddled actors and directors, feeling cast adrift on a sea of ambiguity, unsure of what is going on, maybe incredulous too, and yet somehow still fascinated by the shenanigans unfolding.

It turns out Noel Coward was a fan, writing to Pinter after experiencing the convention-smashing, fragmented, disturbing The Homecoming. “You cheerfully break every rule of the theatre that I was brought up to believe in, except the cardinal one of never boring for a split-second,” The Master voiced.

Urbane airs: Mathew Horne’s smooth operator pimp Lenny in The Homecoming

“I love your choice of words, your resolute refusal to explain anything, and the arrogant but triumphant demands you make on the audience’s imagination,” he enthused.

There you have it: the “resolute refusal to explain anything”. Over the years, that baton has been passed to the theatre critic, student and historian, and this particular critic has too often found his Pinter to be half empty, rather than half full, frustrating rather than fulfilling, a night to endure, more than enjoy.

Glover’s production, however, is a more rewarding encounter, the mystery, menacing comedy and muscular machismo language brought to the boil by a superb cast on a memorably distorted set design by Liz Ascroft.

Yes, you have to work hard; yes, you have to use your imagination, and yes, The Homecoming still carries its shock value, no longer the angry young man shock of the new; more, ‘did he just say that?’…’did she just do that’, but that is because the cast as one commits to Pinter’s “pause and effect” rhythm of language and its subsequent verbal punch.

Keith Allen’s Max: A cantankerous King Leer

Having played Teddy in 1997 and Uncle Sam in 2015, Keith Allen graduates to patriarch Max, the retired butcher who still rules the North London family house with a simmering temper from his armchair, using his walking stick as much to threaten violence as to hobble around the living room.

Max, a cantankerous King Leer, sets the mood, switching without warning from vicious viper to florid sentimentality, belittling his brother, quietly resolute chauffeur Sam (Ian Bartholomew), and winding up his sons with his bragging.  

The middle son, sarky pimp mobster Lenny (Mathew Horne), and youngest son, slow-headed, slow-footed aspiring boxer Joey (Geoffrey Lumb) have never left home despite Max’s derision. Like father, like son, all three are deluded, unhinged.

The one who did break away, eldest son Teddy (Sam Alexander), is a smug philosophy professor at an American university with educated airs and a cultivated voice. Without warning, he is paying a visit to show off his wife, mysterious, unpredictable, stultified former model Ruth (Shanaya Rafaat).

Family tensions: Warring Sam Alexander’s Teddy, left, and Mathew Horne’s Lenny with Ian Bartholomew’s mediator, Uncle Sam

This is a change-resistant house devoid of female presence since Max’s wife died, and Ruth becomes a pawn in a power struggle of toxic masculinity. Or does she, because amid the appalling misogyny, in a world where all the men talk, but none of them listens in games of one-upmanship, she is the one who does exactly that and then makes her play, picking them off in turn, as she breaks free from smug Teddy’s condescending control.  

It is said the word is all in a Pinter play, but here director Glover, designer Ascroft and lighting designer Johanna Town have a vital impact, at once physical and visual. Glover uses choreographed movement, a sudden change of posture, as the prelude to a mood switch; Ascroft has built a house interior that is worn, faded, stale, but is also stretched beyond reality with high walls and an endless staircase, bringing a sense of warped perspectives and being trapped.

Town’s lighting switches from drab domestic ordinariness to gothic shadows or flashes brightly on and off to reveal characters in different positions from before to indicate a juddering shift in the play’s tectonic plates.  

Leave the pauses and disdainful social comments to the deconstructionist Pinter, and he leaves you to fill in the narrative gaps, to cling onto the coat tails of non-sequitur conversations and to make sense of it all…or not. He is playing with us, toying with us, ever the agent provocateur out of love with man’s foibles and failings, our idiocy and crassness. Is it funny? The joke is on us.  

Keith Allen plays The Homecoming to the Max in third role in Pinter’s brutal comedy

Keith Allen as brutal patriarch Max, ruling his sons with threats and violence, in The Homecoming

KEITH Allen is completing a hattrick of roles spread over 25 years in Harold Pinter’s darkly comic power struggle The Homecoming, on tour at York Theatre Royal from tonight.

At the National Theatre, in 1997, the Welsh actor, comedian, television presenter, documentary maker and rousing punk musician played university professor Teddy, returning from America with his wife Ruth to find his two brothers, Joey and Lenny, and elderly father Max still living at their North London family home.

In 2015, at the Trafalgar Studios, London, he was cast as Uncle Sam. “Now I’m playing Max but that’s as far as I can go because I’m too old to play Joey or Lenny,” says Keith, 68. “Max is the patriarch of a very misogynistic household. Every character is repressed to the nth degree but while most of them repress their rage Max doesn’t.

“He had a very interesting relationship with his now-dead wife that has coloured his whole life and he’s in a household where they’re all playing games and trying to top each other. Everything that’s done is for a reason and it’s usually to get one over on someone else.”

Keith compares former butcher Max to a raging sheep: “If you’ve ever been in a field with a very angry tup, you don’t want to be there. I’ve been there and they don’t back down.”

Director Jamie Glover and actor Mathew Horne, who is playing pimp Lenny, always had Allen in mind for their Pinter project “They’re close mates, and the genesis of the idea to do a Pinter play came from them. They took their idea to Danny Moar at [the Theatre Royal] Bath, originally wanting to do The Caretaker, but the Pinter estate offered the rights to The Homecoming instead.”

Glover and Horne were unsure whether Allen would want to return to Pinter’s 1965 fractured family drama, but “Max is a part I’ve always had my eye on,” says Keith. “I was very lucky to be offered it and I’m very pleased to be doing it.”

After all, The Homecoming is considered to be Pinter’s finest work in its exploration of toxic masculinity, stultifying patriarchy, one-upmanship feuds and sexual powerplays. “I’ve always thought Pinter was a poet before he was a playwright and the poetry is amazing. This whole play is about language and very particular choices of words, which is why as an actor you have to be very on-the-ball about the grammar.

Keith Allen’s Max, seated, and Mathew Horne’s Lenny, centre, in The Homecoming

“I think the lyricism of the play is extraordinarily attractive and the tension has people constantly going, ‘What on earth is happening and what’s going to happen next?’.”

Keith praises not only the writing, but the “brilliant structure” too, describing it as a feat of engineering. “As an actor, you just get your skis on and let the skis guide you,” says the skiing enthusiast.

What does Keith recall of his first performance in The Homecoming? “That was in 1997, directed by Roger Michell, who died last September, bless him. I remember feeling I’d let the cast down in rehearsals, as I would forget my lines, make things up and trip my way through it, playing Teddy to Lindsay Duncan’s Ruth.

“But I got a handle on it in the end, and it was a brilliant way to learn about being still on stage, which is a great skill to master, when a lot of actors get scared if they’re not doing anything.”

Comparing the productions, Keith says: “I have to say that all three have had very different qualities. This one is very funny, much funnier than the other two, because the director chose that path. Jamie Lloyd’s production in 2015 was much bleaker; this one is genuinely funny but also very discerning.

“A hefty contributory factor to that humour is that these men are idiots. They’re fantasists, all trying to be top dog, and that’s funny to watch.”

Assessing The Homecoming’s impact on audiences in 2022, by comparison with 1965, Keith says: “Misogyny is very present in the play, as is generational jealousy within a family. The mother is dead but she looms very large in everyone’s memory, especially Max’s because he loathed her.

“When the play was first performed, I don’t think anyone had seen anything quite so vicious and measured before. Now it’s interesting for different reasons because we’re living in a time where women are becoming far more recognised and are on a far more equal footing.

“As an actor, you just get your skis on and let the skis guide you,” says Keith Allen of the art of performing in a Pinter play

“There are things in the play that could be misconstrued as being abusive to women and, because of the times we’re living in, audiences might react very quickly to certain things which they wouldn’t necessarily have reacted to before.”

Keith has “previous” for Pinter, not only appearing in The Homecoming but also in Pinter 3: Landscape/A Kind Of Alaska in the West End and The Celebration and The Room, both directed by Pinter himself at the Almeida Theatre, London, in 2000 and in New York in 2001. 

“You very quickly realised that Harold chose people for what they could do; he was very careful in his casting,” Keith recalls. “He wouldn’t ask you to act a part, but to ‘be’, so he left you alone and watched.”

As for Pinter’s advice on his notorious use of pauses, “he once quite frivolously said to us, ‘if the pauses don’t work, **** it’, but actually they do work,” says Keith. “It works like a musical score in that what comes before dictates what comes after. It’s all about rhythm.”

After a five-year hiatus, Keith will enjoy his return to York, where he was last seen on stage as Inspector Rough in Patrick Hamilton’s thriller Gaslight at the Grand Opera House in February 2017. ” York is lovely because you’re near the river and there are some lovely pubs,” he says.

“I really like touring. I like the fact that you’re on the move and it’s as if you’re having an opening night every week because you’re in a different space, in a different theatre, with a different ambience.

” I like to fit in some golf wherever I go and I have an ingrained curiosity about corrugated iron chapels and buildings, so I always see if I can find one or two to go and have a look at.”

Theatre Royal, Bath, presents Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming, York Theatre Royal, tonight until Saturday; 7.30pm, plus 2pm, Thursday; 2.30pm, . Box office: 01904 623568 or at

Keith Allen as Inspector Rough and Kara Tointon as Bella Manningham in Gaslight at the Grand Opera House, York, in February 2017

More Things To Do in York and beyond as Pinter’s pause and effect comes home to roost. List No 82, courtesy of The Press

Keith Allen: Homing in on The Homecoming arriving at York Theatre Royal on Monday

AVOIDING the “devastation of stag and hen parties” (copyright Rachael Maskell, York Central MP), Charles Hutchinson finds reasons aplenty to venture out.

Play of the week: Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming, York Theatre Royal, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm; Thursday, 2pm; Saturday, 2.30pm

GAVIN & Stacey star Mathew Horne and Keith Allen star in Jamie Glover’s new production of The Homecoming, Harold Pinter’s bleakly funny 1965 exploration of family and relationships.

University professor Teddy returns to his North London childhood home from America, accompanied by his wife Ruth, to find his father, uncle and brothers still living there. As life becomes a barely camouflaged battle for power and sexual supremacy, who will emerge victorious: poised and elegant Ruth or her husband’s dysfunctional family? Box office: 01904 623568 or

Tom Figgins: Introducing new material tonight at Stillington Mill. Picture: Daniel Harris

Outdoor gig of the week: Tom Figgins, Music At The Mill, Stillington Mill, near York, tonight, 7.30pm

SINGER-SONGWRITER Tom Figgins returns to At The Mill’s garden stage after last summer’s sold-out performance, with the promise of new material.

Figgins’ vocal range, guitar playing and compelling lyrics caught the ear of presenter Chris Evans, who hosted him on his BBC Radio 2 show and invited him to play the main stage at CarFest North & South.

His instrumental works have been heard on Countryfile and Panorama and he is the composer for the Benlunar podcast, now on its fourth series. Box office:

Martin Roscoe: Guest piano soloist for York Guildhall Orchestra

Classical concert of the week: York Guildhall Orchestra, York Barbican, tonight, 7.30pm

YORK Guildhall Orchestra’s final concert of their 2021-2022 season welcomes the long-awaited return of pianist Martin Roscoe, originally booked to perform in May 2020.

Retained from that Covid-cancelled programme are Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite, with its combination of cheeky jazz tunes and the Russian’s mastery of orchestration, and Dohnanyi’s mock-serious take on a children’s nursery rhyme. Leeds Festival Chorus join in for Elgar’s Music Makers. Box office:

Go West and Paul Young: Eighties’ revival at York Barbican

Eighties’ nostalgia of the week: Go West & Paul Young, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm

PETER Cox and Richard Drummer’s slick duo, Go West, and Luton soul singer Paul Young go north this weekend for a double bill of Eighties’ pop.

Expect We Close Our Eyes, Call Me, Don’t Look Down and King Of Wishful Thinking, from the Pretty Woman soundtrack, in Go West’s set. The chart-topping Wherever I Lay My Hat, Love Of The Common People, Everytime You Go Away and Everything Must Change will be on Young’s To Do list. Box office:

Paul Merton’s Impro Chums: Wanting a word with you at the Grand Opera House

Fun and word games of the week: Paul Merton’s Impro Chums, Grand Opera House, York, Monday, 8pm

HAVE I Got News For You regular and Comedy Store Players co-founder Paul Merton teams up with fellow seasoned improvisers Richard Vranch, Suki Webster and Mike McShane and accompanist Kirsty Newton to flex their off-the-cuff comedy muscles on their first antics roadshow travels since August 2019.

“What audiences like about what we do is that we haven’t lost our sense of play, our sense of fun, the sort of thing that gets knocked out of you because you have to get married or get a mortgage or find a job,” says Merton. Let the fun and games sparked by audience suggestions begin. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or

Hayley Ria Christian: All aboard her Midnight Train To Georgia for a night of Gladys Knight hits

Homage, not tribute show, of the week: Hayley Ria Christian in Midnight Train To Georgia, A Celebration Of Gladys Knight, Grand Opera House, York, Friday, 7.30pm

HAYLEY Ria Christian’s show is “definitely not a tribute, but a faithful portrayal that truly pays homage to the voice of a generation, the one and only Empress of Soul, Ms Gladys Knight”.

In the late Sixties and Seventies, Gladys Knight & The Pips enjoyed such hits as Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me, Help Me Make It Through The Night, Try To Remember/The Way We Were, Baby, Don’t Change Your Mind and her signature song Midnight Train To Georgia. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or

Milton Jones: International spy turned comedian in Milton: Impossible

Comedy gig of the week: Milton Jones in Milton: Impossible, Harrogate Theatre, May 21, 7.30pm

ONE man. One Mission. Is it possible? “No, not really,” says Kew comedian Milton Jones, the shock-haired matador of the piercing one-liner, as he reveals the truth behind having once been an international spy, but then being given a somewhat disappointing new identity that forced him to appear on Mock The Week.

“But this is also a love story with a twist, or at least a really bad sprain,” says Jones. “Is it all just gloriously daft nonsense, or is there a deeper meaning?”  Find out next weekend. Box office: 01423 502116 or

Grace Petrie: Carrying on the fight for a better tomorrow when every day you are told you have lost already

Protest gig of the week: Grace Petrie, The Crescent, York, May 23, 7.30pm

DIY protest singer Grace Petrie emerged from lockdown with Connectivity, her 2021 polemical folk album that reflects on what humanity means in a world struggling against division and destruction.

Petrie’s honest songs seek a way to carry on the fight for a better tomorrow when every day you are told you have lost already. Bad news: her York gig has sold out. Good news: she will be playing Social, Hull, too on May 18 at 8pm (box office, On both nights, she will be accompanied by long-time collaborator, singer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Moss.