Review – Home, I’m Darling, National Theatre

Friday 27 July 2018

Tricky.

How do you discuss Home, I’m Darling without giving away a key reveal? Well those who reviewed Tamara Harvey’s production when it was at Theatre Clwyd gave it away willy-nilly, but then it is mightily hard to talk of it without doing so. Fortunately we saved reading those reviews until after we’d seen it.

Statistically, of course, most readers won’t ever get to see it anyway so why should one care so much? Despite this, however, we will still endeavour to give away as little away as possible. Which means this will be a faster read for you and you can move on to better things.

So what shall we talk about then? The heatwave? Brexit? Trump? The Thai cave rescue? Whether or not Bette Midler will bring Hello Dolly! to the Palladium?

No, we are exhausted fretting over those. We could remind you that Laura Wade who penned this play also wrote Posh which became the film The Riot Club and that she is married to Samuel West. Just imagine those barge holidays with the in-laws! We might tell you that Katherine Parkinson who plays the lead role of the endearingly nutty and obsessive Judy is the daughter-in-law of The Vicar of Dibley‘s Trevor Peacock. We might mention that Richard Harrington who plays her husband Johnny is not only from Wales but speaks Welsh too. And that Barnaby Kay who play’s Fran’s jiving dance partner Marcus is married to actress-du-jour Nicola Walker. Or we could say that Sian Thomas who plays Sylvia, Judy’s mother, appeared in Madonna’s West End stage debut, Up for Grabs and got considerably better notices than the global megastar. Best of all though, Kathryn Drysdale who plays Marcus’ wife is Meghan Markle in The Windsors.

But we are just postponing the moment. So here goes. Judy appears to be an almost Stepford Wives-styled housewife, perfectly groomed, obliging and all ruched aprons and full-circle floral skirts. She has an apparently ideal and loving relationship with her husband who is seeking promotion in his job. Johnny’s boss is a woman (Sara Gregory). Oh dear. Judy stays at home happily working to a strict domestic regime looking after him and their immaculate home – which in Anna Fleischle‘s design is a two-storey cross-sectioned pastel-hued confection; a paean to Fifties design with a touch of Hitchcock’s Rear Window. On the surface everything appears perfect. Baking is restricted to Fridays, sex restricted to the bedroom. Alarm bells anyone?

And plot-wise that is about all that we are prepared to reveal. But among the plotting and up to the minute topicality of some of the Post-Weinstein themes you can enjoy a bit of choreographed inter-scene set redressing (watch out to see how they clear away the mess on the kitchen table in Act 2), cocktail preparation, devilled eggs and one of those ice buckets that looks like a pineapple.

The aforementioned Sylvia has a “modern” outlook that means she disapproves of her daughter’s unliberated wifey-wifey lifestyle. Phil was initially wondering why such a Whinger-approved actress as Thomas took what appears to such an unremarkable role until you see her unleash the best and funniest speech of the evening in Act 2.

Parkinson, who can do loveable vulnerability with a vaguely needy quality unlike no other is just a little bit more than splendid. You really need to know that everything will turn out alright for her. The handling of a potential #MeToo moment in Act 2 is hilarious and shocking and neatly written. Judy deals with a situation in just one word. Coincidentally that word is also the name of a Madonna song. See the lengths we go to not to spoil things for you?

Was this written in response to the Weinstein aftermath? Unlikely given the time these things take to write, produce and schedule. In that case Wade is extremely prescient or has been busily tweeking. There’s a lot going on here and what it’s actually getting at we are a tad unsure about. We shouldn’t live in the past as it’s not what it’s cracked up to be? A Brexit reference probably – yawn. Have things really moved on for the better when we cover ourselves with tattoos and Instagram our dinners? It is our right to make our own choices whatever they may be? Can conformity actually be non-conformity? Can non-conformity be conformity? Phew, we exhausted ourselves with that one. The gender politics are all in here but happily there’s no banging us about the head with them. Whatever Wade is presenting it’s a nicely even-handed approach even if the whole thing might benefit from a little pruning.

Pity the Dorman don’t angle their side seats. Phil was forced to move after the interval as he had a very fidgety man next to him for Act 1 who was horribly distracting. Worse than that he had BO. That’s the man next to Phil had BO, not Phil. Or Andrew come to that. We’re as fragrant as Mary Archer don’t you know. Even in this weather.

But it’s not only Ms Wade who is able to sport a Me Too Mystic Meg turban. Back in 2009 we – for some reason – were at Richard Dreyfuss’ opening in Complicit at the Old Vic and wrote:

“So this wasn’t your typical West End audience, they were probably friends of the Old Vic (good enough friends to have been given the right start time) and of Mr Spacey himself, judging by the number of people Kev was going up to and saying hello to before the show and during the interval. Heck, he even put his arm round one of the Whingers’ group then brushed against him again in the interval. It seems Spacey knows everyone, or at least wants to.”

Ratings

 

 

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