Home, I'm Darling

"An enjoyable couple of hours at the theatre"

Does living in a bygone age make a person happier?  That was the question posed by Judy (Jessica Ransom) and Johnny (Neil McDermott) in Home, I’m Darling, a play by Laura Wade under the direction of Tamara Harvey.

As I enter the auditorium the stage is filled with the inside of a house decorated with a true 1950’s style, down to every last detail thanks to set designer Anna Fleischle.  You are instantly transported back in time and fully believe the play to be set in that era. 

Judy (Jessica Ransom) and her husband Johnny (Neil McDermott) share breakfast that she has lovingly prepared as the ‘Stepford housewife’ she is.  They talk over breakfast of their undying and unwavering love for each other in a rather sickly sweet way and the perfect life they live is thrown straight at you.  Ransom and McDermott work extremely well together as the married couple, with fantastic chemistry during both the happy and sad moments of their marriage.

As Johnny leaves for work, with his lunchbox packed with care by Judy who waves him off at the doorstep, you still believe that they are living in the 1950’s, that is however until Judy sits down at the kitchen table and opens a laptop.  It is not until then that you realise, they are living in the modern day, but with the values of the 1950’s lifestyle which includes the way they are dressed. 

The story follows the couple as they navigate trying to live a life with old fashioned values, whilst trying to negotiate the modern life.  There is a real juxtaposition with other characters entering the house dressed as we would now.  Judy’s mother Sylvia (Diane Keen) was the voice of reason throughout the play trying her best to navigate her daughter away from this way of life and trying to explain that it wasn’t all a bed of roses as she believes it to be. 

It is not until Act 2 that we understand how this way of life was introduced into the couple’s life, with the opening of this act providing a flashback to when Judy took voluntary redundancy.  They decided that they could afford it if she was to remain at home and be a housewife whilst Johnny continued with his job as an Estate Agent.  It was always apparent that Judy was the driving force in this lifestyle, however we never really understood why she felt that this was the way of life she strived for.  There were many moments of doubt, as to who she was and why she wanted the 1950’s life and the feeling that it was more of a mask and that she was hiding from certain aspects of her life, again it was unclear why she felt this way.

Friends of the couple, Fran (Cassie Bradley) and Marcus (Matthew Douglas) also shared their love of the 50’s era, however not to the same extent.  Each time they appeared on stage they danced along to some classic rock n’ roll songs from that time and each time a scene change happened we were also treated to some fantastic music including ‘Mr Sandman’, ‘Why Must I Be a Teenager In Love’ and ‘Peggy Sue’. 

There were various trials and tribulations played out, including Judy hiding the fact that they were struggling financially and that she had used all the money left to her by her father due to Johnny earning less because of his underperformance at work.  There was also the introduction of new work boss Alex (Shanez Pattni) who catches Johnny’s eye whilst he is out in the modern world.  Judy slowly starts to break down and questions whether the life she wants to lead is her destiny.  After a lot of soul searching the couple decide that they should share the responsibilities within the house and not be as transfixed with a way of life that perhaps isn’t achievable.

This play was enjoyable with some funny moments, and it showed that there is no such thing as the perfect life.  All performances were polished, and the dialogue was free flowing.   An enjoyable couple of hours at the theatre.

This show was reviewed on the 28th February 2023.  It runs at the Malvern Festival Theatre until the 4th March 2023. Tickets are available here: https://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/whats-on/home-im-darling/

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