BWW Review: HOME, I'M DARLING, Duke Of York's Theatre
Beginning life at Theatr Clwyd last summer, Laura Wade's latest play Home, I'm Darling quickly transferred to the National's Dorfman Theatre and has now begun a limited engagement in the West End - following this run it will tour to Bath and Salford, before returning home to Theatr Clwyd at the end of April. Katherine Parkinson reprises the role of Judy in this Tamara Harvey-directed production.
On the face of it, Judy and Johnny have it all: the perfect marriage, a beautiful house and their ideal lifestyle. But is this merely a facade? And is it all it's cracked up to be?
Growing up in a slightly unconventional environment has instilled Judy with the wish to do things differently when it was her turn, so when an opportunity arose for her to change the way she and Johnny go about their everyday lives she took up the challenge - and made herself into the ultimate 50s housewife.
What constitutes a feminist? It's an interesting thought to ponder as you watch Home, I'm Darling; some consider feminism to be the rejection of what was previously considered to be 'women's work', some see it as the fight for absolute equality between the sexes, and others think it's simply the right to freely choose how you occupy your days - even if it is willingly choosing to conform to gender stereotypes.
Wade's play is clever in the way it twists and turns, slowly revealing bits of information that reveal how Judy and Johnny got themselves in this position, leaving you constantly re-evaluating your opinion of their choices. Though it does raise important issues and have moments of high drama, it is a comedy through and through, with laughs flowing freely from start to finish.
Anna Fleischle has once again come up trumps with her set design: a compact two-storey house, complete with bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room. Its gorgeous 50s style makes it a treat just to look at, colour-coordinated with Lucy Carter's lighting design. I'd go so far as to class it as one of the stars of the show, particularly when you watch in awe at a scene transition early on in the second act.
In fact, the scene transitions as a whole are a real breath of fresh air. Thanks to Charlotte Broom's period-style choreography, everything is fixed and rearranged with great panache - often reflecting the mood of the previous scene or suggesting what's to come. There's something rather fun about these moments being part of the performance as a whole, and knowing you should be watching instead of wondering when everyone will start talking again.
Richard Harrington and Katherine Parkinson are well matched as Johnny and Judy; they have a great dynamic that's suited to the dramatic moments as much as the more comedic sequences. Judy is blessed with some terrific lines, which Parkinson delivers with aplomb - and she also mines every last bit of poignancy out of some of the latter scenes.
This play is a top-class comedy that's thought-provoking as well as entertaining - a guaranteed hit whether you consider yourself a feminist, domestic goddess, or something in between.
Picture credit: Manuel Harlan