LAURA Wade’s play Home, I’m Darling hit the London stage with a 50s flurry and a 22- carat central performance by Katherine Parkinson. Now it has been made available for amateur performance and Frome Drama is the first company to take it on, after its sell-out London run and two national tours, including a visit to Bath as recently as February.
Jo Chivers’ production, on the Merlin Theatre stage, brings a totally new aspect to the play. It’s a challenging job for those who design and populate the set with props, specially when they know they will face an audience with a vivid memory of the era that Judy and Johnny have chosen for their home. Without the big budgets of the West End and national touring companies, it means careful scouring of vintage stores, antique shops, friends’ homes and probably ebay, too.
Ebay is where the deliriously happy couple, whose clothes, furniture and even words mimic the classic films of the 1950s. This has been their choice. From their annual holidays at the (fictitious) Jivestock Festival in Wiltshire to their refusal to replace (broken) kitchen accessories with modern ones, they have curated a life in which the wife’s work is serving her husband, and his in breadwinning by day and luxuriating in her tender care at night and at the weekend.
But is it all how it seems?
Without the blazingly magnetic star turn of Judy – and that’s not to diminish Noelle Grierson’s thought-provoking performance at Frome – the balance of the play shifts. In this production the cracks appear much earlier.
Brought up in a worthily earnest feminist commune, with a hierarchy that only the bright teenager seemed to notice, she is only too happy to leave her highly-paid job and lead a rigidly structured life with her adoring and adored husband Johnny (James Weston). But is he keeping to the rules of the game when he’s outside the house?
The characters in Home, I’m Darling also include Judy’s mother Sylvia (the charismatic Roo Kapadia), their friends Fran (Becki Bradley) and the rather dodgy chancer Marcus (Richard Thomas) and Johnny’s ambitious new boss Alex (Tabitha Bradley). There is also a long list of designers and builders, props team, acquisitions team, costume advisor, dance adviser and backstage staff, in a show where their contributions are vitally evident.