25 March 2022

Review: ‘Home, I’m Darling’ at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

By Rachel Sloane
Home, I’m Darling

Review – Home, I’m Darling by Laura Wade

Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

Home, I’m Darling opens with an intriguing set… a kitchen, sitting room and hall and stairs… all decorated in 1950’s colours and styles (where did they find that oven and fridge?).

Happily married Judy (Rosanna Miles) and Johnny (Toby Manley) are living the 1950’s dream, her with her stiff petticoats and frilly apron, and him with his hat, mac and briefcase. Waited on hand and foot by his loving wife, Johnny has a wife who, as well as being a ‘domestic goddess’, is willing to head up the stairs to bed, between baking cakes and polishing taps. 

It is a real turning back of the clock to an idealised version of the 1950’s. It is a shock then, as Johnnie leaves for work….Judy happily gets out her laptop! What is going on?

The play moves on, with bright lighting highlighting the ceiling areas, and loud music as the props are moved into place by Fran (Ellie Burrow) and Marcus, (Charles Hagerty),  also dressed in lindy-hop style, as they jive around the stage. These are the couple’s friends, who also love to recreate the 1950’s -but just as a hobby.  Judy and Johnny have taken it to the extreme, not only decorating their home appropriately, but living the full lifestyle with Judy having given up her well-paid but stressful job, leaving Johnny as the husband who works, supporting them both. 

Judy’s very modern feminist mother Sylvia (Hilary Harwood) is horrified by their lives, and she, and we who are watching, can begin to see that Judy is kidding herself that her homage to nostalgia is working, especially when the couple are living on one income. An expected promotion for Johnny is unforthcoming, possibly due to their strange lifestyle, as observed by Johnny’s boss, Alex (Kerry Bennett) over some awkward cocktails and ‘nibbles’. 

The 21st century, with its new morality, work practises, and expectations just doesn’t fit with 1950’s attitudes. 

An excellent cast, (and a huge and very well-played role for Rosanna Miles, as Judy), this is a play that several times had the audience gasping aloud at some of the casual comments that may have been acceptable in the 1950’s.  So, at home…“You don’t do anything!” And Marcus, a sexist male boss:   “it was just a quick slap on the bottom!” Many in the audience were around in the 1950’s and, like Judy’s mother, could remember that it wasn’t the perfect world that her daughter imagines. 

There were discussions during the interval… would Judy give up on her dream and accept she needed to return to work to clear their debts?

It was another shock for the audience when the second act opened and Judy (previously disapproving of bad language in her idyllic bubble) was swearing and Johnnie was making her breakfast. Then all became clear – it was a look back at how the decision to adopt the 1950’s lifestyle came about. What a relief!

Returning to the conundrum of their chosen lifestyle and the debts they faced, eventually there was a satisfying conclusion to the story….. 

This is a play that is really worth seeing…. And one that you will continue talking and thinking about long after you leave the theatre. 

Produced by the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds (and only the third professional production of this play) Home, I’m Darling is a comedy exploring relationships, gender-politics and feminism and asks, ‘Is there such thing as a perfect marriage?’

It is at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 2nd April, 2022.