Theatre Review: HOME, I’M DARLING – The Lowry, Salford

Katherine Parkinson as Judy in HOME, I'M DARLING

Katherine Parkinson as Judy in HOME, I’M DARLING. Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

E-bay, the internet and mobile phones meet the 1950s in HOME, I’M DARLING

3 out of 5 stars

Laura Wade’s witty comedy brings to life one woman’s desire to be the perfect 1950s housewife in a world where fetching her husband’s slippers and descaling the taps with lemon juice is all part of the daily routine.

The married couple decide to take on a nostalgic way of life, immersing themselves in a fantasy world which slowly seems to be pulling them apart and shows that being a 1950’s housewife isn’t all so glamorous after all.

Judy, played by Katherine Parkinson, swirls around the spotless house in fantastic, voluminous frocks with her hair done to perfection and deviled eggs and her delicious chocolate chiffon cake at the ready, all the while listening to some catchy 50’s radio tunes.

Her sole aim is to please husband Johnny, played by Jo Stone-Fewings, from making his breakfast in the morning to being at the door to greet him on his return from his normal day out at work. The couple even joke that they are ‘disgustingly happy’ with life.

Susan Brown as Sylvia in HOME, I'M DARLING

Susan Brown as Sylvia in HOME, I’M DARLING. Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

Judy’s anxious energy and love of routine is amusing to watch on stage. Although she bears a slightly annoying way of talking, it fits in well on stage in her role and she manages to capture the soul of a woman made to cook, clean and well, please her husband, even if that does mean learning everything from a housewife ‘bible’ she bought on the internet.

The relationship with her husband, however, seems somewhat forced. Understandably, considering the 1950’s housewife has no say in her partner’s other relations, it would have been nice to see a bit more passion and realness towards each other, particularly when they admit that their lifestyle may not be working.

After is what is quite a mundane first half, the stage is set alight with the introduction of Judy’s mother Sylvia, played by Susan Brown, who gives an outstanding and fiery monologue telling both Judy and her friend that the ’50s weren’t all as idyllic as they were made out to be and that “nostalgia isn’t what it used to be”. It soon becomes apparent in the second half that Judy was once a fully functioning 21st-century financial worker, who gave it up to live the lifestyle she once dreamed of having. Yet this lifestyle the couple chose to live appears to have been more of a one-sided decision than we were originally made to believe and may very well have been a rebellious reaction to the community based, feminist upbringing Judy was given.

Richard Harrington as Johnny and Katherine Parkinson as Judy in HOME, I'M DARLING

Richard Harrington (Johnny) & Katherine Parkinson (Judy) in HOME, I’M DARLING Photo: Manuel Harlan

The set and props are all very bright, colourful and are a perfect cut-out scene from an ideal 1950’s house, almost like a doll house. But unfortunately, the dollhouse-like set turns out to be quite obstructive, unless you are sitting immediately front on. It is only at the interval that I was able to see into the set and realise that there is actually a pantry in the kitchen.

That said, this is a humorous production and one which would probably make every feminist in the house squirm in their chairs with disgust Judy’s undying passion to ‘work’ for her husband. Shame then that it just seems to lack a certain something, whether that be the lack of climax or passion or the unanswered questions as to why Judy chose to leave her normal life for her made-up reality.

Still, there is much to enjoy in this fine comedy despite this and with a clear underlining message showcasing feminism and the roles and battles of the sexes, this very clever script has incorporated just how far women have come over the years, subtly including the #metoo movement. All in all, it is a good production worth seeing.

HOME, I’M DARLING runs at The Lowry, Salford until 27 April 2019.