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a couple whose fondness for the 1950s goes so far that they not only embrace jive dancing and swing skirts but also outdated gender roles: Judy quits her job to become a housewife who spends her days cleaning and cooking.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.
Average User Rating
3.7 / 5
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Superb - original idea, good staging, production novelties throughout and excellent convincing performances. As a proposition, it was also largely believable - we all know people who live a false life even though not in their interests. One caveat - although KP's performance was a tour de force, there is a high pitched monotone in her voice which is a little wearisome for 150 minutes (although this might be deliberate to relate to 1950s uniformity). Also, theatre acoustics not ideal. The most spectacular solo is by Judy's mother as she launches into a diatribe against her daughter's life choice, pointing out everything that was bad about the 1950s, a decade long past before Judy was even born.
Unimpressive and boring. I found this predictable and hard work to watch. The performance by Katherine Parkinson was irritating. The other actors outshine her performance. IMO, not a recommended play.
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.