LAURA Wade’s latest award-winning play Home, I’m Darling, more than lives up to all the rapturous national reviews.
The extraordinarily varied writer has created a seemingly artificial world which is the only reality that central character Judy knows. Brought up in a 60s commune, she has swallowed hook, line and sinker the advertising promises of post-rationing life in the 1950s, with its new gadgets, make-do-and-mend philosophy and rigidly delineated roles. Meeting Johnny, another keen fifties fan, it all seemed perfect.
Judy has given up a lucrative job and settled into life as a housewife, eschewing modernity (though there is a laptop for bidding for “vintage” stuff on ebay) and crafting and moulding the house into a 50s paradise. Along with the decor and the appliances goes sticky-out petticoats and dance skirts, sculpted hair and an existence devoted to the gratification of her breadwinner, Johnny.
In many ways this funny, sad, dangerous and poignant play is about judgements. Judy just can’t understand why people (and especially her mother), think that the life she has chosen is a risible fantasy. Johnny fights with the reality of how he is judged at his work. Marcus can’t judge how far a man might reasonably take flirting in the #MeToo world. Alex confounds expections of judging everything by the bottom line. Sylvia judges everyone by her own experiences.
Directed by Tamara Harvey, who collaborated with Laura Wade throughout the gestation of this brilliantly subversive play, it is performed on a two-storey set designed with wit and panache by Anna Fleischle and choreographed to period perfection by Charlotte Broom.
Home I’m Darling was chosen as the best new comedy in the 2019 Olivier Awards, in one of the strongest fields in recent memory. But it is much more than a comedy. It’s a thought-provoking and frighteningly truthful play that comes at you from the leftfield , with a stupendous central performance from Katherine Parkinson, a huge and memorable speech from Susan Brown and a lovably tentative Johnny from Jo Stone-Fewings.
Go for one of the day tickets if you can. The rest are sold out, and no-one will go away disappointed.
Photographs by Manuel Harlan