With the dust still settling on the Olivier Awards 2019, the satirical play Home, I’m Darling took home the award for Best New Comedy, beating out other nominees such as Nine Night and Quiz.
In a picture perfect dolls house kitted out with all authentic fifties decor (from eBay) we are introduced to Johnny and Judy the sickeningly perfect couple who are “appalling happy.” That is until you see Judy pull out her MacBook and you begin to see things for what they really are.
Judy is living in a fantasy. In the 21st century she is desperate to be transported back to the fifties. She has wrapped herself up in this world whilst blindly denying it, “It’s not a lifestyle.”
Since quitting her job three years ago Judy busied herself each day, fussing over her husband, cooking, cleaning, baking and reading her version of the Bible, Kay Smallshaw’s 1949 How to Run Your Home Without Help. It seems all good to be true and when money problems arise Judy’s world is shaken.
Both themes of feminism and gender politics are addressed in various ways… What constitutes inappropriate behaviour in the workplace? Is the work that Judy does at home valued as much as the job Johnny has? What happens when another woman comes on the scene? This play challenges gender roles and addresses them in a way very different from our current outlook on feminism. It’s a fresh angle on a current topic.
Katherine Parkinson (Judy) is most known for playing Jen in the IT Crowd. She creates an intriguing Judy, and you’re left wondering why her motives in the play are what they are. Her subtleties within the character are brilliant, from her twee bouncy walk to her indulgent skirt swishing and spinning.
Jo Stone-Fewings (Johnny) is the husband so heavily doted upon. You feel sorry for him, as despite living what seems like a life of luxury, he is clearly unhappy. He grounds the fifties world and makes Judy see sense.
There is a brilliant monologue from the mother Sylvia, played by Susan Brown, who brought some gritty realism to an airy fairy fantasy with her recollections of the fifties, “bomb shaped holes” and “this is not what we fought for!” Her speech finally shattered the illusion Judy was endlessly creating by challenging her actions within the play.
Along with Judy and Johnny are their friends Fran and Marcus who both love the fifties too, although not quite as much. They jive their way through scene and costume changes to a brilliant soundtrack.
The set is something else. A brightly coloured hit of nostalgia, with not a single inch not in keeping with the fifties feel. The audience gasped as the house transformed in front of their eyes. Designer Anna Fleischle has fantastically captured and exaggerated the time period as well as incorporating some really clever elements.
This new play is a brilliant breath of fresh air. Constantly funny, packed with moments that stay with you and a unique look at an age old problem. With Laura Wade’s writing and Tamara Harvey’s direction this production has had success written across it from opening night.