Drama and comedy returns to the stage of Theatre by the Lake with an entertaining play that looks at how we all pick and choose our own narrative of reality – shaped by our rose-tinted glasses approach to history writes Karen Morley-Chesworth.
The main theatre is in the round for this production of Laura Wade’s deconstructed rom-com – providing a viewpoint on every perspective of a marriage cloaked in fantasy and collapsing under the weight of pretence.
The relationship between Judy and Johnny has been captured within a 1950s bubble – like an insect trapped in amber. Living in the 21st century, they both have a passion for the 50’s style, fashions and music yet take it one step further to take on the philosophy and social norms of the era.
From career woman to housewife carer, Judy persuades Johnny to move their marriage into another decade and the juxtaposition of 1950s dream and 2020s reality brings to light just how far we have come in the social structure of relationships – and how our imagined view of history is a pic-n-mix of wishful thinking, style over content and a way of escaping the realities of the moment.
Judy, played with great passion by Sandy Foster is the character which takes the audience on the painful journey from fantasy to reality. When the truth of her parent’s history is revelled by her mother Sylvia, played by Susan Twist is uncovered, the passion and desire to be the perfect 50s couple subsides – at the same time as her husband Johnny, played by Tom Kanji, reveals his own desire to escape the confines of a decade neither had ever lived through.
Former commune living, Greenham common, feminist activist, Sylvia cannot understand how she raised a daughter to be a woman who could give up her independence. Twist captures the frustration and desperation a mother feels to protect her daughter from the husband, she believes is entrapping her in domestic drudgery – while Kanji beautifully portrays the turmoil his double life between 1950s home and 2020s working life creates.
When Johnny’s boss Alex enters the 50s sanctum of the family home, there is no escaping the present day. Sophie Mercell as Alex brings the sharp reality into the centre of Judy and Johnny’s world – popping their time bubble.
The unreality of the 1950s hobby that has become a reality for Judy and Johnny is highlighted against the relationship of their friends, Fran and Marcus who keep their life firmly in the present day, with holidays back in time at 50s themed festivals.
The relationship between Judy and Fran, brilliantly played by Vicky Binns provides the space for exploring the motivation behind Judy’s lifestyle choices. Meanwhile, the character of Marcus, played convincingly by Sam Jenkins-Shaw points the spotlight on the misogyny that has been and remains a threat within our society. Jenkins-Shaw brings the charm and charisma to this role that is needed to display the uncomfortable truth of the need for the fight for women’s rights need to continue.
The set of this production is charming, and the buzz of optimism created in the 1950s is a shining light which carries through this production. A great play to reopen Theatre by the Lake with – entertaining, thought provoking and ending with hope for the future.
Theatre by the Lake have audio described, captioned performance, relaxed performance and British Sign Language performances of this production and guaranteed socially distanced shows.
Home, I’m Darling by Laura Wade runs until Saturday 30th October 2021 at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, Cumbria. https://www.theatrebythelake.com/event/home-im-darling/
Reviewer: Karen Morley-Chesworth
Reviewed: 15th October 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★