Home, I’m Darling by Laura Wade.
Directed by Alexandra Pelvin. Assisted by Antonia Kitzel. Set design Andrew Kay. Lighting design Stephen Still Sound design Justin Mullins. Stage Managers Paul Jackson and Ann-Maree Hatch . Production manager Ann Gallen. Canberra Repertory. Until July 8. Booking 62571950.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
| Karina Hudson is Judy in Home,I'm Darling|
In Laura Wade’s cautionary play Home,I’m Darling fantasy comes at a price. Happily married housewife Judy (Karina Hudson) has indulged her childhood nostalgia to resurrect her romantic notion of the Nineteen Fifties. She has thrown in her high level job and plays the happily subservient housewife to her husband Johnny (Ryan Street). But all is not scones and jam and cream as cracks appear in the façade and tensions rise as reality bites. Judy discovers as her mother Sylvia (Adele Lewin) only too morosely points out that the Fifties were not the bed of roses she has imagined and when the inevitable money woes surface the idyllic imaginings are dashed on the rocks of reality.
Canberra Repertory’s production of this moralistic glimpse into the past against the reality of the present is a delight to watch and cast and creatives under the direction of Alexandra Pelvin have created a show that faithfully depicts the romanticized version of the Fifties against a backdrop of contemporary challenges and social issues. Wade skilfully interweaves themes of sexism, feminism, matrimony, capitalism and sexual harassment throughout the play as Judy and Johnny discover the high price to pay to survive in a world of yesteryear’s clichés.
For someone who lived through the Fifties and is able to look back on that grey and faded past, Canberra Rep’s production is perfectly staged food for reflection. The Rep set building team under the direction of Andrew Kay has excelled in recreating the black and white chequered linoleum floor, the patterned wallpaper and pastel walls and bright lime-green kitchen. There is even a toilet with a chain in the upstairs bathroom! The period leaps out at you as you enter the theatre and an era that has thankfully vanished into the history books. Or has it? Wade might have us believe that the design has changed but her characters expose the universal nature of the human condition.
Pelvin imaginatively directs a stellar cast with sharply observant intuition and theatrical flair. As Judy, Hudson is magnificent, joyfully effervescent in her fantasy world and anxiously vulnerable when the real world intrudes. Filling in for Tom May who was struck ill prior to opening, Street gives a totally believable performance as the husband who finds himself forced to eventually confront the consequence of Judy’s fantasy. He offers a perfect foil to his wife’s exuberant role playing. They are supported by a flighty, gossipy friend Fran, played with a daffiness by Natalie Waldron in contrast to husband Marcus’s sleazy Me Too character, played with uncomfortable authenticity by Terry Johnson. Only Kayla Ciceran as Johnny’s boss Alex at the real estate firm and Lewin as the long suffering Syvia firmly root the play in today’s reality.
A delightful touch of comic invention has backstage crew Paul Jackson and Ann Gallen performing comical set and prop changes in the dimly lit breaks between scenes They may have made the play that little bit longer but they earned the pair some well-deserved applause from the audience.
Wade gives her comedy a happy ending, but we are left in no doubt that life is a fragile journey through challenges that are constantly there to provoke and distract and when we examine the nature of human behaviour it would be recalcitrant to argue that we have left the past behind and entered a brand new and better world. Wade has given us food for thought and Rep has given us a production that is finely staged and wonderfully entertaining.