The Homecoming, now considered by many critics to be Harold Pinter's masterpiece, was not universally admired when it was first produced in England by the Royal Shakespeare Company at London's Aldwych Theatre, on June 3, 1965. Many critics, while praising the production directed by Peter Hall, found the play itself to be baffling and enigmatic in the extreme. Harold Hobson, critic for the Sunday Times and an early proponent of Pinter's, predicted that the play would' 'suffer in the estimation of audiences who will perceive an aesthetic defect that does not exist, in the place of a moral vacuum that does." Despite numerous viewer reactions that verified Hobson's forecast, The Homecoming had a long run to packed houses in London before moving to the United States.
The Broadway opening of The Homecoming on January 3, 1967, at the Music Box Theatre was greeted with great excitement Repeating its London success, the production had a long run in spite of some negative reviews, the most notable by Walter Kerr of the New York Times In March The Homecoming won the Antionette ("Tony") Perry Award as best play on Broadway and in May it was voted best new play on Broadway by the New York Drama Critics' Circle. It also received the Whitbread Anglo-American award for the best British play of the year. This sensational success established Pinter's reputation in New York, opening the door to widespread production of his subsequent work.
While baffled by the fact that the startling action of the play seemed to lack any rational explanations, both critics and audiences responded to Pinter's gift for dramatic suspense and sharp, biting comedy. The Homecoming does in fact deal with many themes, such as emotional impotence, Oedipal desires, personal loneliness and isolation, appearance and reality, and familial power struggles, to mention a few; and, audiences and critics alike sensed that there is a great deal more going on in the play than can be easily articulated. As John Russell Taylor put it in Plays and Players magazine, "The secret of the play does not lie in our providing a neat crossword-puzzle solution " Despite—and perhaps because of—the play's ambiguity, The Homecoming has remained a centerpiece in Pinter's canon. New productions of the play are frequent as actors, directors, and audiences attempt new interpretations of Pinter's work.