‘Home, I'm Darling’ review

Theatre, Comedy National Theatre , South Bank Until Wednesday September 5 2018
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(1user review)
‘Home, I'm Darling’ review
© Manuel Harlan Katherine Parkinson as Judy and Richard Harrington as Johnny

Katherine Parkinson is a doomed domestic goddess in Laura Wade’s sharp satire on the quest for domestic perfection

Fans of swooshy skirts and classic cars, watch out. If ‘Posh’ playwright Laura Wade’s sharp domestic satire is to be trusted, they’re gateway drugs. ‘Home, I’m Darling’ follows a couple whose obsessive love of all things vintage coaxes them into a lifestyle of ’50s-style domesticity. He goes out to work, she quits her job in finance so she can fetch his slippers, work wonders with deviled eggs, and push an old-school hoover around their gloriously patterned home. It’s not the most plausible set-up for the many people who combine retro fashion with twenty-first-century gender politics, a frock really is just a frock but in Wade’s hands, it’s the excuse for a fizzing drama of gender, homes and housework through the decades.

It all centres on Judy, the office worker-turned-housewife who’s brought wonderfully to life by Katherine Parkinson. Wade’s play hops back and forth through time, charting her progress from harried independence to immaculately dressed, but utterly miserable full-time domesticity. Parkinson’s words choke out in sobs as she tries to hide her deep frustration with the pretty retro prison she’s fashioned for herself. Or she sucks you into her paranoia, making you follow her gaze as she hungrily scours her husband’s face for signs of infidelity.

Pressure mounts as Judy’s husband Johnny (Richard Harrington) struggles to earn enough to support them both, and gets a new female boss who’s basically sex in polyester trousers. Wade’s thesis is that while being a housewife means that women say goodbye to the worries of juggling a job and housework, they open themselves up to some whole new flavours of hell: financial dependence, emotional vulnerability, floundering sex lives, not to mention a lack of new things to chat about over breakfast. Judy’s mother Sylvia has absolutely no patience with her daughter’s doomed quest for fulfilment. Her character basically exists to throw the feminist rule-book at the rebelliously conformist Judy, but luckily actor Sian Thomas has plenty of fun with this wild-haired mouthpiece for gender equality.

Tamara Harvey’s production, which originally opened at her Welsh home venue Theatr Clywd, is a delight. It feels sparky, knowing and totally natural, bringing light to Anna Fleischle’s immaculately detailed retro set. Yup, there are a few can of worms that Wade’s play chooses not to open – like what happens when women stay at home to look after children or older relatives, rather than as some kind of elaborate retrograde flourish. But otherwise, it’s an admirably brisk, thorough airing of all the resentments that rigidly policed gender roles bring. Sure, dig out the petticoats, but some things are better left in the past.

By: Alice Saville

Posted:

Venue name: National Theatre
Contact:
Address: South Bank
London
SE1 9PX
Transport: Rail/Tube: Waterloo
Price: £15-£50. Runs 2hr 30min
Event website: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/home-im-darling
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    • National Theatre £15-£50. Runs 2hr 30min
    • National Theatre £15-£50. Runs 2hr 30min
    • National Theatre £15-£50. Runs 2hr 30min
    • National Theatre £15-£50. Runs 2hr 30min
    • National Theatre £15-£50. Runs 2hr 30min
    • National Theatre £15-£50. Runs 2hr 30min
    • National Theatre £15-£50. Runs 2hr 30min
    • National Theatre £15-£50. Runs 2hr 30min
    • National Theatre £15-£50. Runs 2hr 30min
    • National Theatre £15-£50. Runs 2hr 30min
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tastemaker

Is a woman’s place in the home? Most of us would think not. What about if it’s the woman’s choice? This is the situation that is presented to audiences in the new Laura Wade play, ‘Home, I’m Darling’, performing in the National Theatre, Dorfman Theatre.

The plot concerns Judy, an intelligent, University educated woman, who decided to give up on her whole career to pursue her dream of being a 1950’s domestic housewife. She enjoys nothing more than to look after the home, (even having the time to dust behind things,) before welcoming her husband home with a cocktail, and dinner on the table. Of course this play is the cause of much debate about what is sexism and can a woman, even in this day and age, be subservient to her man without being criticised by society. I think it is interesting that modern society believes we have free choice, but how much choice do we really have if we rebel against modern values?

Katherine Parkinson portrays Judy brilliantly, and though it could be seen as a 1950’s Stepford Wives adaptation, it is as Judy says time and again, ‘this is my life’, both with trials and tribulations, it is by no means perfect even though that is the impression she is trying to achieve. It is fun, and funny, costume changes a plenty and ultimately worth every minute and a real laugh at just how stupid her whole persona of what it means to be a 1950’s housewife.

It’s a sell out as you might expect so do take advantage of day seats and Friday Rush tickets, details of which you can find out on the National Theatre’s website.