REVIEW: Home I’m Darling – Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Laura Wade’s Home I’m Darling opens on a lovingly decorated two-story, 1950s home. A women, who we find out is Judy (Jessica Ransom) is clad in a candy stripe circle skirt, puffed out with petticoats and a frilly pinny. The dialogue delivered is pure RP. It all looks like any of Doris Day’s pastel-hued 1950s domestic comedies, or at least, the perfect presentation of post-war life in the London suburbs. That is, until Judy opens a drawer and pulls out her laptop.
All is not as it seems.
It transpires that three years ago, a once very 21st Century woman Judy, has taken voluntary redundancy and eschewed the trappings of modern life. She throws herself whole-heartedly into becoming the perfect 1950s housewife, right down to the assumption of very traditional gender roles.
But, the signs of strain appear: the redundancy money has run out; husband Johnny (Neil McDermott) has missed a much-need promotion and is wearily bearing the over-attentiveness of his out of touch wife. Judy’s mother Sylvia (Diane Keen) is frustrated with her daughter’s obsession, and reminds her how hard-won women’s rights were and how real life in the 50s was about harsh survival and recovery from the scars of war. Friends Fran (Cassie Bradley) and Marcus (Matthew Douglas) love the vintage vibes, but for them it’s just a harmless hobby, Judy, however, is neck-deep in her 1950s fantasy, spiralling, detaching herself further and further from reality, the bubble she has built is getting closer and closer to exploding.
Wade’s play is an examination of gender roles past versus present, and how all that we wish for through rose-tinted glasses may not be what we need or want.
Ransom’s Judy is as arch as she could be, she swirls around dusting, carpet-sweeping, endlessly baking, cocktail making, shoe-removing and generally being as perfect as she could possibly be. However, it tips too far into utter unbelievability for you to want to understand the psychology, let alone give her any sympathy, even as she unravels it sounds and feels like a sanitised episode of Watch With Mother. There’s no light and shade in the characterisation.
McDermott, as husband Johnny actually garners the most sympathy intentionally or otherwise. He plays along until he can play no more. However, even at moments of crisis, it’s all very polite.
Judy’s mother Sylvia played by TV veteran Diane Keen is the voice of reason in the midst of this madness. Poking holes in her daughter’s “gingham paradise”, utterly bemused why anyone would wilfully return to the grey 1950s, a world of fear and intolerance.
Enjoyable in parts, one can’t help feeling that this could all have been a bit harder-hitting without the extreme stereotypes and with some judicious pruning, both in text and in the time-wasting, choreographed interludes between scene changes. Winner of the 2019 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, the laughs are also surprisingly few and far between. A fine enough effort from all involved but ultimately unsatisfying.
Originally reviewed for The Reviews Hub.