A CurtainUp London Review
Home I'm Darling
Laura Wade's first original play since Posh has Katherine Parkinson living the retro life as a 1950s housewife. She is perfect with her frilly apron topping her very full skirted, striped dress with its layers of stiffened frou frou petticoats. She totters in white high heels with seams up the back of her American Tan stockings. As she breathes all sweetness and light and tells us that she is "offensively happy", we can believe that we are meeting an actual "Stepford" wife. "How do you get your taps so shiny?" asks her friend. She packs her husband Johnny's (Richard Harrington) sandwiches and fills a thermos flask.
It is only when her husband leaves that she sneaks a laptop out of the drawer in the kitchen table that we spot an anachronism. Then there is the reference to Margaret Thatcher in power two decades after the 50s. Can Judy be living in one of those television documentaries designed to throw people back into the past to experience domestic life in different decades of the twentieth century? Then someone says internet and landline and the truth starts to reveal.
The 1950s immersion is a choice for Judy, an obsession and a lived out fantasy where she can feel calm "having the time to clean behind things." The internet is important in order to buy up the original packaging and refill it with today's product. "The Great Pretender" plays in the background.
We met Judy's mother Sylvia (Susan Brown) and learn that Judy grew up in the antithesis of a 1950s household, a chaotic commune of the 1960s. Friends Fran (Siubhan Harrison) and Marcus (Hywel Morgan) disappoint when they say they won't be going to the annual 50s festival Jivestock where Marcus normally partners Judy in the dance jive competition. Also Judy has been keeping a secret about money from Johnny.
In Act Two we flash back to Judy when she was still working full time and no-one had the time to decorate their house. This show is highly reliant on Katherine Parkinson's acting, the confidence she derives from an imagined picture of the 1950s, all style and no substance. When her mother Sylvia chooses to reveal in detail what the actual 50s were like, "Being nostalgic when you weren't even there!" Judy can only say, "I don't know who I am without the 50s."
Laura Wade's plays examines the concept and strictures of being a house wife, without children to care for, stripping away her identity except as a maker of marmalade and piccalilli and domestic provider to her husband. The full load falls on Johnny as he is the sole wage earner.
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Home I'm Darling
Written by Laura Wade
Directed by Tamara Harvey
Starring: Katherine Parkinson, Richard Harrington, Siubhan Harrison, Sara Gregory, Susan Brown, Hywel Morgan
Design: Anna Fleischle
Choreographer: Charlotte Broom
Sound Design: Tom Gibbons
Lighting Design: Lucy Carter
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 0844 871 7615
Booking at the Duke of York's to 13th April 2019 and then on tour to Bath, Salford and Mold to 4th May 2019
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 16th February 2019 matinee performance at The Duke of York's St Martin's Lane WC2N 4BG (Rail/Tube: Charing Cross)
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