National Theatre co-production with Theatre Clwyd and Fiery Angel
Lowry Lyric Theatre
23 April 2019 - 28 April 2019 and Theatr Clwyd 30 April 2019 - 4 May 2019; 2hr 40 min inc interval
An example – an extremely successful one - of a new-ish strand of British theatre spearheaded by mainly female creatives, Home, I’m Darling arrives at The Lowry after sold-out runs at the National and West End and winning this year’s Olivier award for best new comedy.
Laura Wade’s clever creation gets the laughs but it’s more serious than that - it’s also a portrait of a woman in the grip of a life-restricting obsession.
Judy (the pretty wonderful Katherine Parkinson of The IT Crowd and Humans) is apparently a doting 1950s housewife, descaling the kitchen taps and fetching hubby Johnny’s (Jo Stone-Fewings) slippers. They are, says Johnny, offensively happy.
But it isn’t long, as Judy gets the laptop out of a kitchen cupboard, before it’s clear she is living in a fantasy world. We’re actually in the 21st Century, in which Judy has lost a high-powered job and retreated into a make-believe version of a post-war world she has never experienced.
Her weapons against the real world around her include a duster, cocktail mixer and high heels, choosing to live a 50s life as authentically as she can, skipping and twirling around her perfectly clean and tidy home.
It can’t last, of course; there’s eventually no escape from life as it is, underlined with devastating effect by Judy’s formerly hippie mother Sylvia (an applause-generating turn from Susan Brown) who demolishes her daughter’s make-believe in a fierce outpouring on why the 50s were really a terrible time to be alive, with no central heating, no abortion and no place for the gay or handicapped.
There are a few twists and turns before the final - something of a cop out I think - very upbeat ending. Alan Ayckbourn could well have written more or less this same script back in the 70s and 80s - in fact he pretty much did across his extensive output, also anticipating the tricksy set and time-shifts - and he wouldn’t have been so forgiving. His women suffered more, but we’re in the age of #MeToo now….