Home I’m Darling, the brilliantly compelling play by Laura Wade, is now on stage at Ilkley Playhouse until 23rd September.
If you could turn back time, where would you go? The roaring twenties? The swinging sixties with its summers of love? Or perhaps the era of rock and roll, the fabulous fifties? Life was simpler back then: children played out, grandparents were grey-haired knitters and growers of chrysanthemums, men went out to work and women stayed home. So, if we could go back, then we would jump at the chance, wouldn’t we?
Winning a raft of prizes, including the Olivier for the Best Comedy in 2018, this play is a fascinating and very funny exploration of what it is like to try and live in the past, for that is exactly what the central characters, Judy and Johnny, try to do.
The curtains open to reveal a clever split-level set, completely furnished in 1950s style and with the central character, Judy, dressed for the era. It is only when a friend arrives carrying a plastic shopping bag, or there is mention of a pizza place in the shopping centre that we realise this play is set now.
Frances Kaye, as Judy, is on sparkling form as she performs the role of the perfect housewife, determined to build a life in the precise model of the era she idolises. Johnny (Will Sadler) is complicit in this lifestyle and has abandoned all the trappings of the 21st century – at least on the surface. But whilst Judy can disappear into this retro life of her own creation, Johnny, having to go out to work, is living a double existence – and therein lies the crux of the piece. Johnny’s challenging dual existence is perfectly executed by Will, who really captures the sympathy of the audience.
All of the performances in this play, directly deftly by Rick Hyland, are stand-out, each adding an important dimension to the central theme. Judy’s uncomprehending mother, Sylvia, played compassionately and with clear infuriation by Barbara Barnes, struggles to understand why her daughter would turn her back on the equality she fought for. Johnny’s boss, Alex, (Carol Butler) is initially enchanted and then baffled by the life the couple lead and through her eyes, we start to recognise the problems it causes them, being so out of step with the real world – and Carol’s performance as Alex, is wonderfully varied from power woman to wronged woman and plenty in between,
When we meet the couple’s friends, Fran and Marcus, (Nikki Ford and Ryan Jones) it seems initially that they are kindred spirits, also embracing all things 50s, but as the play progresses, a darker side of the era comes to the fore and leads to some of the most excruciatingly compelling scenes of the play – truly great stuff.
Pieces like this throw up all manner of questions, many of them relating to the endless notion of things having been better in the past. Our rose- tinted spectacles are clouded along with, at times, our judgement. This will have you laughing out loud, gasping in horror and above all thinking for a good while after. It runs until September 23rd. Tickets can be booked by calling 01943 609539 or on line at www.ilkleyplayhouse.co.uk