Home, I’m Darling is a new play by Laura Wade co-produced by Theatr Clwyd and the National Theatre which recently had its world première at Theatr Clwyd in Mold before it transfers to London’s National Theatre. It’s directed by Clwyd’s Artistic Director Tamara Harvey who’s at the helm of a star-studded cast, including Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd, Humans) and Richard Harrington (Hinterland, Poldark).
With this show being a co-production with the National Theatre and having a famous cast it has created a lot of publicity and excitement. Most of which I had tried to avoid prior to seeing the show (okay, as a Theatr Clwyd supporter I was obviously excited that yet again it was producing, and premièring a show with such prowess.) However, I wanted to let the play rather than the hype and rave reviews do most of the talking. Therefore I pretty much entered the auditorium of the Emlyn Williams theatre thinking that I was going to see a play set in the 1950s about a dutiful housewife. Yeah, that wasn’t quite what I got. But unlike finding rosemary in your lemon cake this was a good surprise.
The next two and a half hours depicted anything but the 1950s utopia Judy (Parkinson) has tried her best to create for her and her husband Johnny (Harrington.) As it transpires this “gingham paradise” is all a facade, a security blanket of sorts for Judy. Because despite the detailed accuracy of Anna Fleischle’s set and costume design, which at first helps us firmly believe we’re in the 1950s, we’re in fact in the present day.
We soon discover that for both Judy and Johnny and their friends Fran (Kathryn Drysdale) and Marcus (Barnaby Kay) it’s more Home, I’m not so Darling than Home, I’m Darling.
For all the star power on stage, the real star of the show is Laura Wade’s script. It firmly has its finger on the pulse of the current social climate, which has been asking several questions about feminism and what it means (or even looks like) to be a feminist now. Can Judy be a feminist, as she claims to be (because her current lifestyle is her choice) whilst her life revolves around devotion that borders on servitude? Whilst Johnny, despite all this focus on his own happiness, becomes unhappy because all this idealism isn’t real and he misses the feisty, high powered woman he married who “could give as good as she got.” A version we’d more stereotypically associate with modern feminism.
Meanwhile Judy’s Mother, Sylvia (Siân Thomas), a staunch feminist thinks Judy is compromising all that her generation fought for. Telling her straight in a fabulously comic yet poignant monologue about what life was really like in the 1950s. Especially if you were a woman because choices were a luxury they were seldom afforded. Which coupled with Alex’s (Sara Gregory) comments about how the 1950s weren’t so great if you were black or gay or disabled shatters this notion of idealism and wholesome values.
And yet, what’s so… feminist, I guess about this play is that it doesn’t ridicule Judy or her choices but shows that we all crave security; that feeling of home and will often look for it in the wrong places.
Staging wise, although at first I was confused by the jiving scene changes, wondering why Fran and Marcus were robbing Judy and Johnny’s home I came to really enjoy them and wish I’d been taught this at drama school. They really helped keep the show moving, whilst building up suspense for the next scene.
As ever, I have to mention the fabulous stage management team, creatives and crew who make a show like this run like clockwork and for preparing and cooking all that food for every single show (sorry Judy.)
All in all, I had a fantastic afternoon at the theatre that once again it left me feeling very privileged that Clwyd is my local theatre. The combination of such stellar acting, evocative writing and creative talent had me completely engaged and immersed, especially when I found myself thinking that I must check eBay when I get home because Judy those dresses are darling. My only gripe was because I was on the front row I couldn’t see the upper floor in all its glory but accessibility won out there.
And just a quick note on accessibility. It’s so great to see the number of accessible shows available that have been available for this run but also how this show has tied in with the theatre’s excellent outreach work with the local community. From having the Arts from the Armchair group visit the set and reminisce as well as having the play live streamed to a local care home with the help of Streamer. It’s really wonderful to see.
Home, I’m Darling has it’s last two show at Theatr Clwyd today, July 14th, before transferring to London’s National Theatre from the July 24th to September 5th. More information can be found at Home, I’m Darling, National Theatre. It really is a must- see.
Best of luck to all involved for the rest of the run.
Now where can I get tickets to JiveStock?