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Review: Home, I’m Darling

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Posted on: 10 May 2023

Written by Laura Wade. Directed by John Ghent.

May 5, 2023 at The Little Theatre

Review by Alex Thompson

As director John Ghent asks in his programme notes “How would you like to turn back the clock and live in the 1950s?”

As someone that was born in the nineties, I immediately imagine those incredible patterned wallpapers, the nine-to-five man in a suit and the domestic goddesses with a permanent painted smile. And indeed this is the life lived by Judy (Caitlin Mottram) and Johnny (Gary Hunt) who are the very embodiment of that rose-tinted 1950s life. But peel back that perfect picture just a little and it becomes obvious that life post-war wasn’t all the glitz and glamour that modern media lets us believe.

This season’s LDS shows have seen some of the most incredible sets I have seen – some scarcely believable for a theatre this size – and Home, I’m Darling continues this streak. Upon entering the auditorium, you are instantly taken back to that idealised 50s home, back to a time were going to the theatre to watch a play was a staple of many couples’ lives. The detail shown by set designer Al Davis to create this perfect 1950s house is immaculate, from the multi-coloured patterned floors and rugs to the tiny TV located in the cupboard. The pre-show announcement reminding us to keep our modern tech on silent is humorous and beautifully sets the scene.

Whilst Judy and Johnny seem to be living the perfect 50s life, it soon becomes clear something isn’t quite right. In fact, the end of the opening scene was so startling it drew audible gasps from the audience as people turned to their parties stunned. I won’t go into the fine points of the plot so as to avoid spoilers, but writer Laura Wade conducts a very fine balancing act, allowing this bygone era to exist side-by-side with modern themes such as feminism, gender and power, whilst never forgetting this is a comedy at heart. The spinning of these conflicting plates could end in disaster with a less experienced director, but John Ghent does a wonderful job of getting the right balance, resulting in a production that is both side-splitting and thought provoking, often at the same time.

The undoubted star of the show is Mottram as Judy. Portraying a woman who is on the verge – or quite possibly in the middle of – a mental breakdown as her perfect life crumbles all around her, every emotion is played wonderfully on Mottram’s face as she tries to keep her feelings below skin deep like a good little 50s housewife. Hunt compliments her as the always charming Johnny, before his mask begins to slip too. Their chemistry is entirely believable and has you rooting for the characters throughout, despite their obvious flaws. They are accompanied by Tracey Holderness and Laurence Jackson as friends Fran and Marcus, both of whom deliver some incredibly funny one-liners (Jackson in particular has a very high line-to-laugh ratio) and Becky Orton as Alex, whose power oozes through every time she’s on stage. My special mention however must go to Elaine Rook as Judy’s mum Sylvia, who delivers an incredible monologue in act two that was rightly given an ovation.

It would also be amiss not to mention the always-on-point era-appropriate costumes provided by John Bale, and the sheer number of props accumulated by the properties team to make this seem as close to 50s life as possible. A natural by-product is slightly longer scene changes are required but these will likely get quicker as the week-long run progresses. In fact, the changes got noticeably quicker as the performance went on thanks to the efforts of the stage team and dressers.

Upon leaving there was a beautiful buzz in the theatre and the chatter I heard from the patrons was overwhelmingly positive. Home, I’m Darling is a delightful production that will have you yearning for a simpler time whilst appreciating how far today’s world has come in perfect harmony.

 

Home, I’m Darling is running at The Little Theatre until Saturday, May 13, 2023.

 

Photo by Dave Morris.

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