Katherine Parkinson is terrific as Laura Wade’s fine domestic goddess satire hits the West End
Laura Wade’s very enjoyable satire ‘Home, I'm Darling’ is now settling in at its third home, after opening at Theatr Clwyd in Mold (it’s directed by the theatre’s boss Tamara Harvey), and then coming to the National last year.
It’s a social comedy about Judy and Johnny, a couple whose fondness for the 1950s goes so far that they not only embrace jive dancing and swing skirts but also outdated gender roles: Judy quits her job to become a housewife who spends her days cleaning and cooking. Unsurprisingly, paradise turns out not to be a primrose fitted kitchen after all – and Judy’s staying at home soon has ramifications on their relationship, as well as their finances.
Wade’s concept is a cute one, taking a slightly eye-roll-inducing facet of modern life – our fetishisation of all thing retro – to extremes. It stretches credulity at times, but is very well put together, with full-bodied characters, sub-plots and back-stories, plenty of amusingly astute lines, and a good slug of social commentary.
Much of the latter is delivered by Judy’s sensible mother – a feminist who’s exasperated by her daughter’s faked, primped feminine domesticity. This is not what she marched for, she rages, before pointing out that the real 1950s were shit for anyone who wasn’t a straight white man.
It’s implied that this obsessive homemaking is, in fact, Judy’s own form of rebellion: she was brought up in a commune, where they ate lentil lasagne and no-one did any cleaning on principle. Her counter argument is that true feminism is about choice. There are moments where Judy sounds almost sensible; it might well be better if we all had more time, less money. But the dreamy idyll she envisioned never materialises: Wade suggests pretty strongly that the imbalance of power in those old gender roles cannot work in a modern marriage of equals.
These debates never go terribly deep, but they add spice to the proceedings, and Harvey creates a nice balance between gentle comedy and darker undercurrents. Susan Brown is very good as the exasperated, truth-telling mother, and if Richard Harrington’s Johnny feels a bit wet as a character, Judy is superbly brought to life by Katherine Parkinson. She juicily rolls all the comic potential out of Wade’s dialogue, while suggesting the ever-present panicky fear beneath it. Judy is rather sad, stuck in this pastel-coloured prison of her own devising.
Anna Fleischle’s detailed, two-storey design is perfect: like a mid-century modern doll’s house, with enough genuinely stylish furniture and tempting full-skirted frocks to make you understand, a bit, why Judy is so in thrall to the era. And while it might sound like damning with faint praise to make special mention of scene changes, they really are a hoot: nifty rock ’n’ roll dancing fills the gaps but also moves the props, while a flashback to the couple’s house as it was before the ’50s makeover is done with delightful panache.
|Venue name:||Duke of York’s Theatre|
St Martin's Lane
|Transport:||Tube: Leicester Square|
|Price:||£18-£95. Runs 2hr 30min|
Snap up exclusive discounts in London
Time Out's handpicked deals — hurry, they won't be around for long...