Sideburns. Poodle skirts. Rationing. Just some of the trends the 1950s were recognisable for. First seen at Theatre Clwyd followed by a sold-out run at the National, Home, I’m Darling by Lauren Wade celebrates all things fifties with the story of a 21st century woman wanting to live her life as if she lived in the mid-twentieth.
Judy, played by the well-poised and wonderful Katherine Parkinson, scatters around the stage as her idealistic vision of being a housewife – making cocktails, offering tea here and there, hanging vintage clothing wherever she can. Her philosophy in life is wanting to focus on everything in the household and doing service for her husband Johnny (Richard Harrington), leading her to leave everything behind from the 21st century and jump back sixty years. The problem is, as Judy’s mum Sylvia (played by the almighty Susan Brown) quite rightly suggests – ‘…the fifties weren’t a lifestyle choice, they were a result of post-war. Grey meat, grey people, everything grey.’
There lies the problem I find with Laura Wade’s script. Whilst it is frequently witty and full of a wide range of vocabulary (perhaps too much), I question on the value and realism of the concept itself. As the rest of the cast go on living their lives in the current century, this drags the pace of the script hugely at times. Judy obviously struggles to keep apace with her fifties lifestyle and keeping calm and collective around her family and friends. I just wish there were more moments where that tension was released and we could see her fighting more against the modern day world around her. In fact, Judy roots and wants to do well for her marriage and lifestyle, but we never specifically find out why her husband Johnny also accepted her decision to live behind the times.
I’ll go back to Susan Brown’s monologue, as it came at such a detrimental point in the plot where some hard-hitting honesty from someone who actually lived in the fifties was needed. Sylvia criticises her daughter’s decore and way of living, ‘…we never fought for this!’ Despite starring in only several scenes, Brown gave off the biggest effect by far.
There are many other aspects to compliment – some brilliant, nostalgia-inducing music choices during set changes, fantastically colourful dresses worn by Judy as well as a stunning doll-house set designed by Anna Fleische. I won’t ruin the beginning of act 2, but the first scene transition is utter magic.
If only every character threw themselves back in time and committed to it, Judy’s mid-century fantasy way of living would live itself up to its hugely comedic potential.
Reviewed by Jack Grey
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