Home, I’m Darling

Home, I’m Darling
By Laura Wade. Canberra Rep. Directed by Alexandra Pelvin. 22 June – 8 July 2023

Post-WWII 1950s London.  Movies featuring such luminaries as Doris Day and Rock Hudson portrayed the ideal wife as feminine in fashion — typified by tight bodices and flowing, full skirts; sparkling jewellery and the single or double strand of pearls; and swept-up hair — and as making the home cheerful, colourful, and restful for her husband.  The pretty wife made the perfect nest for her breadwinning husband, who, of course, brought her gifts and took her to magnificent dance halls, where they twirled their way across the floor until the small hours, when they returned home without a hint of perspiration or a hair out of place.

Judy and Johnny, adoring this 1950s dream, decide not only to recreate the era in their home but to dress and behave as a 1950s couple.  The sticking point is that it’s 2018, and the world of mobile phones, laptops, modern workplaces, and financial realities are at odds with their vision.  Something may have to give.

Karina Hudson, as Judy, is outstanding in her absolutely convincing determination to be the perfect 1950s housewife, refusing to be drawn into 2018 by her no-nonsense mother, Sylvia, played with great nuance and conviction by Adele Lewin, who, unlike her daughter, lived through the 1950s and fought for women’s independence.  Sylvia’s frustration and annoyance at Judy is palpable as she tries to show respect for her daughter’s choices but is nevertheless unable to refrain from expressing her disenchantment with the whole idea.

Natalie Waldron, who plays Judy’s best friend Fran, brings to the role the delicate balance of outward cheerfulness and inward discomfort that a good friend in a situation such as she is in might feel.  Waldron captures the awkwardness of trying to leave 2018 at the door in order to go along with Judy’s 1950s mores.

Fran’s husband, Marcus, is played by Terry Johnson, who quietly anchors the foursome with his performance as the nonchalant man at the top of his game who doesn’t need to impress and who’ll casually go along with most things.  But whilst Johnson fulfils this role with aplomb, he is to be particularly commended for the subtlety of his disturbing transition as the story unfolds.

Kayla Ciceran admirably plays the role of Johnny’s boss, Alex, a tough 2018 businesswoman who unwittingly stirs up trouble.

The outstanding performance of the night was given by Ryan Street as Johnny.  Street stepped in with only about a week’s preparation when actor Tom May fell ill.  With too little time to learn the role off-script, Street not only inhabited the person of Johnny naturally and believably, but faultlessly negotiated the set, actions, and interactions without letting the physical script detract at all from his performance.

The set, designed by Andrew Kay, was a delight: colourfully re-creating a desirable 1950s home decor; cleverly including upstairs and downstairs to represent the entire house; and peppered with many charming 1950s touches.  Changes to the set between scenes were so entertainingly carried out by stage hands that they elicited applause; and the lighting design by Stephen Still created the sense of warmth that the ideal, happy home would have radiated.  The 1950s costuming, designed by Helen Drum, was superbly authentic, with the choice of fabrics and designs for ‘Judy’s’ attire especially enchanting.

Home, I’m Darling is a captivating, amusing, delightful production from beginning to end.  Grab a ticket and take a romp back to the 1950s before it goes!

Michele E. Hawkins.

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