Review: HOME, I'M DARLING by Laura Wade at Howick Little Theatre

"A Gingham Paradise"

By: Mar. 02, 2023
Review: HOME, I'M DARLING by Laura Wade
at Howick Little Theatre
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Imaginatively directed with an eye for detail by Carleena Walsh, this award-winning play is thought-provoking and effectively executed by a very talented cast and creative team. Winner of the 2019 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, the play was first performed in 2018 by A Theatr Clwyd and The National Theatre, London. But don't be fooled by its comic disguise, this is a play which will not only entertain, it will also make you think.

The play centres around an "appallingly happy" couple, Johnny (Mark Snoad) and Judy (Joanne Lindsay). They have decided to embrace a retro 1950s lifestyle - Judy has resigned from her well-paid job to be a perfect "housewife". She wants the calm, the chance to just stay at home, and be "a good wife". She convinces her husband that life will be easier with a clean house and cooked meals to come home to every night. Her passion becomes realised and she creates a fantasy world full of voluminous vintage dresses, home cooking and the good men of 1950s movies like Gregory Peck. Joanne Lindsay brings this demanding, breezy, ever-smiling character convincingly to life, capturing her various moods with skill - and never leaves the stage!

In many ways the play is simple in terms of plot. This is a delight as it means the witty lines and its ideas can shine through with ease. We are challenged to consider whether those bygone days were so much better - and the play deals with 21st century gender politics, career choices, workplace sexual harassment, financial survival, honesty in a marriage, and the changing roles for men and women. Many awkward and under-asked questions are raised about domestic structures and fault lines. Even in the opening moments, the audience wonders if this "saccharine sweetness" can be for real.

As the play progresses, each of the other characters raise significant reservations about whether the 1950s life was truly "the good old days". This is a very talented cast working superbly together to create shape, light and shadow throughout. Superb performance from Mark Snoad, the understanding but challenged spouse who can't quite make enough money to support his stay-at-home wife's lifestyle, would like to cook himself occasionally, and have pizza even though it wasn't around then. He loses faith in this 1950s version of life - well before Judy does.

Best friend Fran (Ruth Edgar) serves as a wonderful foil to Judy - "I just don't think I have a domestic goddess in me"but she takes away the "How to Be a Good Wife" textbook to pick up a few tips. Excellent performance from Richard de Luca as Ruth's husband, Marcus, a dangerously nice man (but predatory) who disdainfully dismisses workplace harassment: "You can't do anything now."

Female manager Alex (Senica Calder) who Judy sees as a threat, shows what a modern woman can achieve, and how narrow Judy's life has become. Judy Rankin is entirely credible as Judy's mother whose words craft much of the play's truth. One of the best moments of the play comes from her superbly delivered monologue which points out that the "gingham paradise you've made for yourself - you know it's not real, don't you? The fifties didn't even look like this in the fifties. You're living in a cartoon...the fifties were terrible...cold....grey...and not good if you were gay, black or disabled" Mum is horrified that all that society have fought for since the 1950s is being forgotten!

The particularly effective set design (Ian Milnes) provides not only a practical and detailed look into the 1950s world; but also shows the physical disintegration of Judy's world with loosening ropes that should support her. Imaginatively integrating the shifting moods and action of the play are 1950s songs (sound designer - Nicole Ashley) and creative colour use in lighting (Nick Martin). Wardrobe (Judy Rankin) and Set décor/Props (Elizabeth Amiss) create a firm sense of an authentic 1950s world.

The opening and ending moments of the play achieve a delightful contrast - in truth.

It's well worth making a trip to Howick Little Theatre to see this superbly presented production of a modern, award winning - and compelling - comedy!

On until March 18th. BOOK ONLINE ITICKET.CO.NZ OR PHONE 361 1000


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