Therry Theatre. Arts Theatre. 18 Aug 2023
The play’s title only really makes sense after one has seen the play. And it is unlikely anyone has bought a ticket on account of it.
But the company and director Jude Hines believed enough in the play to put it up there and, indeed, lavish an extravaganza of production details upon it.
Because it is worth it.
Home, I’m Darling is a spiffingly good piece of contemporary theatre.
Playwright Laura Wade is swiftly emerging as a “someone” on the British drama scene and the adventurous cultural layering of this play signals why. It intermeshes a wealth of rather serious themes while retaining a bright, satirical spirit. The characters are interesting and likeable. There are surprise plot twists. There are meaty arguments. And, oh, my dear, the frocks are lovely.
The play depicts the odd domestic life of a retrenched finance executive fulfilling a lifelong little girl dream of living in the 1950s. Her hapless real estate agent husband goes along with it and, fastidiously, they recreate a 1950s house complete with 60-year-old refrigerator, bread crock, and housekeeping manual. Thus, with cocktails and hot dinner there to greet her husband as he comes home from work, does Judy recreate the lifestyle of yore. She has the most gorgeous vintage wardrobe to go with it. Theirs is picture book marital bliss. For years.
A potential promotion and a new boss at Johnny’s work slowly nibble at the edges of this carefully confected lifestyle along with friends who are a bit over it. Judy’s zeal, determination, and feminine ingenuity inevitably are challenged.
Alicia Zorkovic is a compelling Judy. It’s a lithe and nuanced performance. Similarly, Stephen Bills as Johnny makes a meal of milquetoast as he finds his way towards some semblance of normality. What with their best friends, divertingly characterised by Jessica Corrie and Adam Schultz, they roll forth the full catastrophe of the old sexist mores of yore, bringing the audience to gasps and cheers.
The action rolls along and the audience rolls with it, clearly having a good time. Everyone soon is singing along to the well-chosen fifties musical timepieces which disguise the perhaps overly long scene changes.
They meet Johnny’s new boss, Alex, very smoothly embodied by Lani Geri, and also, most significantly, there’s Judy's long-suffering mother, Sylvia, from whom there is an utterly memorable performance by Deborah Walsh. She delivers the defining moment of the show drawing together all the questions and pointers that the plot has been eliciting. Nostalgia. What’s it all about?
It’s tour-de-force stuff but not over the top. Director Hines has embraced an easy naturalistic style for the dialogue. It works. The whole production works. It is clever, pithy, pertinent, engrossing - and fun.
The only element that perhaps upstages the story and the acting is the set. It is a huge, two-storey lifesized doll’s house with bathroom and bedroom upstairs, living room and very busy 50s kitchen downstairs. From the hand painted wallpaper to the shining taps, no detail is omitted. It is 1950s Good Housekeeping Magazine in technicolour 3D.
And, talking of loving husbands and wives and the 1950s, this marvel of a retro dream home was the creation of none other than the director’s own husband, Gary Anderson.
When: 18 to 26 Aug
Where: The Arts Theatre