Richard Fitt reviews Home I'm Darling

Home I'm Darling
by Laura Wade
performed by Waterbeach Theatre Company
directed by Kattreya Scheurer-Smith

Laura Wade's play is a cleverly written script that basically explores the difference between social and domestic attitudes, especially to women in the modern day compared to the 1950's through the eyes of the two leads, Judy and Johnny, when Judy takes redundancy and gives up her highly successful career to live her rose tinted dream of being a fifties housewife. Part comedy with a huge dose of pathos thrown in, it certainly made for a thought-provoking and riveting evening's entertainment, made doubly so to this reviewer whose early childhood was spent in that era.

The set, constructed by Mark Easterfield and Chris Shinn with a crew of Terry Betterman, Jane Boden, James Dowson, Christine Easterfield, Michael Husband, Julie Petrucci, Kattreya Scheurer-Smith, Michelle Smith and Joe Swift, was a neat, one room, clever depiction of a fifty's home incorporating kitchen, dining room, lounge and entrance via a front door, all in one set. Up Stage left was an archway leading into a larder with shelves for groceries, which also gave a hidden rear entrance and exit. The extremely well fitted out fifty's kitchen which ran from the larder to the front of the stage complete with gas cooker and a vintage fridge - also of note was the stunning wallpaper. To the rear was a staircase to the upstairs and stage right was the front door and a window through which was a well painted exterior garden scene. Various furniture, all suitably set in the period included: sofa, armchair and a typical kitchen table and chairs - very neatly designed.

The dressing for the set by Jane Boden was equally well thought out, with ornaments, cushions and a massive period designed star on the rear wall. When the curtain opened after the interval the set was covered in dust sheets and pots of paint. Now, the really clever bit were scenery changes. No idea if they were scripted, or put in by the director Kattreya Scheurer-Smith (go to the top of the class if it was..?). The actors, not in the scene, period danced onto the stage to various fifty's popular music hits and set up for the next scene. Highly original top draw additional entertainment whichever way. Well done to Choreographer Emma Bolton Luckie for the routines and Stage manager Cath Langridge for the timing of that.

Costumes by Joy Sinclair were deja vu moments for me. It was like looking back into my mother's wardrobe, with the colours and patterns Judy wore reviving my childhood memories. Very well sourced. The only giveaway, and probably impossible to source today, but men's trousers all had turnups. The clothes were almost the star of the show. Add to that Sue Barnes' period appropriate hair and makeup and you really were transported back 70 years!

The first thing to say about the acting is that this is a very wordy play indeed, with lots of similar phrases repeated to reemphasise points. So, I was amazed to read that, although from an experienced musical theatre background Emma Harpley, playing Judy, was taking on her first ever lead role in a play. You'd never have known it! From her delivery, timing, reactions, facial expressions, body language to her comic timing, all concealed her debutant as a leading lady. She put across Judy's starry-eyed world with consummate ease. Brilliant!

Tom Heritage as Johnny was an excellent foil to Judy, his character was a little more hidden; embracing Judy's vision initially but his subtle changes as he gradually fell out of love with Judy's fifties dream were particularly poignant. The chemistry between the two of them was spot on and totally believable. Putting up with one's spouse's foibles whilst keeping one's doubts to one's self is something every married couple will recognise and Tom Heritage's performance certainly put that across in spades. Not sure I'd have been quite so refrained if I'd discovered my wife had been hiding our dire financial situation, but I guess that was the placid way the character was written.

The supporting cast were no slouches either, Christine Easterfield as Judy's mother Sylvia describing the way wives were treated back in the fifties was for me the standout moment of the play. Closely followed by her description of mouldy milk - yogurt! Then, there was Marcus, very well played by David Moat, who turned out to be a bit of letch. A man very much of the fifties but living in the twenty first century with its less tolerant attitudes to misogyny. His scene with Judy where he discusses the acceptability of his behaviour was a real squirm in your seat moment. Thank goodness for the brilliantly delivered comedic punch line, which certainly relieved the tension. Wendy Croft as Fran, Marcus's other half, in part doubt, part denial as to his 'inappropriate' behaviour to a female colleague, very subtly put across in her otherwise upbeat world. And Alex, played by Michelle Smith the new 'female' boss in her Christian Louboutin's who totally fails to see the impact she has made on Johnny and the brilliantly played scene of dawning on her part and embarrassment on Judy's was extremely well handled.

There were times especially in the first act with the pregnant pauses and poignant moments where I thought the pace could have picked up a bit more, which it did after the interval, but overall, I think Director Kattreya Scheurer did a very professional job with this script. Some of the reviews I read during my research described it as a comedy. Personally, I would call this production a thought-provoking play with some highly comedic moments. I was amused to find that some people thought the publicity material was a typing error with the title of 'Home I'm Darling,' and it wasn't until the first scene in the second half that you realised why it was written that way.

Thank you Waterbeach for a very entertaining evening and excellent hospitality. Always a pleasure to visit. Well done one and all!

Richard Fitt
Regional Representative NODA East
District 4N

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Cambridge CB25 9JU

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