‘I’m disgracefully happy,’ said Johnny, grinning like a cheesy dad from the ads.
But it was a lie.
And so, begins the plot of ‘Home, I’m Darling’, Laura Wade’s new dark comedy about relationships.
Judy (Sarah Lambie) takes voluntary redundancy to live the life of her dreams – to become a 1950s housewife and look after her husband and their home. But this isn’t your ordinary ‘playing at a role’, Judy wants the full-on immersive experience. Their house is a shrine to the 1950s (replete with original fridge) and the set and costume design are a wonder to behold (I very much enjoyed Judy’s copious outfits). Judy is the perfect housewife any man could wish for. Set today, but looking back to yesteryear, opens a whole can of nostalgia and gives voice to the role of women in the home and men in the workplace.
‘Home, I’m Darling’ is an insightful exploration into fantasy and reality and the frustration of everyday life getting in the way. In our current age of burnout, Judy’s desire to be at home and be the perfect housewife makes sense, and it’s refreshing to see a childless (by choice) couple choosing this option. But is this really the path to domestic bliss? In theory, Johnny (Jamie Treacher) has got it made – his wife has his dinner prepared for when he walks through the door along with a freshly made cocktail and his slippers. But in reality, her subservience seems to emasculate him rather than make him more of the man he is meant to feel.
Wade cleverly tugs on a whole heap of complex areas opening up for debate what position of power the main provider has in the household along with the role of unpaid work. If you choose to do housework does that make you less of a feminist? Judy’s mother, Sylvia (Tracy Collier), thinks so and is angry at her daughter’s choice. ‘My work here is work, why isn’t this valued?’ asks Judy. ‘Because men don’t do it,’ replies her mother. But Judy has chosen this role and through exercising her choice, she feels she is being a feminist – it’s a good discussion point.
The power of ‘Home, I’m Darling’ is the layers of meaning. There are copious areas of debate – how thin is the veneer of happiness? Is fantasy achievable in the real world? What do our household roles look like and feel like? Is Judy really trying to live a fantasy or is she actually hiding? And perhaps, more fundamentally: What is real about real life? These are big questions for one play and while it does a good job at raising the questions, it did at times feel lethargic and longer than required.
Running August 2nd – August 6th at The McGrigor Hall, Frinton-on-sea. https://www.frintonsummertheatre.org/
Reviewer: Samantha Collett
Reviewed: 2nd August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★