Paul T Davies reviews Lara Wade’s play Home, I’m Darling playing as part of the Frinton Sumer Theatre Season.
Home, I’m Darling.
Frinton Summer Theatre.
2 August 2022
Frinton Sumer Theatre Website
Almost four years since I saw the National Theatre production, I am delighted that Frinton Summer Theatre have given me, and local audiences, another chance to see Laura Wade’s superb, funny and troubling play. Judy, along with her husband Johnny, has designed her house as a 1950’s abode, tries to source original material, such as the fridge, and wears period clothes and buys local, sustainable products. She has chosen to become a housewife and adopts that lifestyle, claiming she is blissfully happy. But real life is knocking on the door, mortgage payments have been missed, and as her relationship begins to collapse, the façade is impossible to keep up. She has painted herself into an Edward Hopper painting and doesn’t know how to get out.
It’s a great ensemble, centered by Sarah Lambie’s excellent Judy, expertly peeling away the layers of idealism to show the despair inside. In this, she is perfectly matched by Jamie Treacher’s Johnny, who we feel sympathy for when he reveals he doesn’t want this lifestyle, that he can’t cope with being waited on hand and foot, and their lifestyle choice may be damaging him and his prospects on the outside world. Stealing the show is Tracy Collier as Sylvia, Judy’s mum, a “true” feminist that punctures Judy’s world and has a barn-raising speech in Act two that gets deserved applause. Equally good are Emma Grace as Fran, friend of Judy and Johnny, and Duncan Wilkins is suitably sleazy as Marcus, who makes us all feel uncomfortable as he tries to strike a financial agreement with Judy. Making her professional debut, Muireann Gallen is a confident presence as Alex, Johnny’s boss. The cast are excellent as the tension increases, and an effective flashback scene gives us the context and justification for Judy’s choice.
As with many first nights, not all of the comedy landed, and, whilst I appreciate the demands of a limited stage and backstage area, the scene and costume changes were far too long, the audience was often left looking at an empty stage. And director Melissa Aston-Munslow places most chat in the upstage kitchen area, quite distant from the back of the hall, and an important reveal ten minutes in is missed as it should happen more centre stage. But the show will pace up, and the costumes by Neil Gordon are a triumph, as is another miraculous set by Sorcha Corcoran. If you don’t know what to expect, well, that’s the best way to experience this play, and this fine production is a perfect way to discover Laura Wade’s genius.