Home, I’m Darling | National Tour | Review

Home, I’m Darling

Theatre Royal, Brighton

April 2023

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

Judy and Johnny lead a 1950’s lifestyle, clothes, décor, appliances. She stays at home while Johnny works as an estate agent. He hopes for a promotion. He realises they have financial problems; the house might be repossessed. Three years earlier Judy had taken voluntary redundancy, but the money has run out. He is underperforming at work and doesn’t earn as much commission. He says he isn’t happy. They need to change. He gets a promotion, but it will involve a long commute.

The first thing to say about Home, I’m Darling is that it is completely mis-advertised. Laura Wade’s first original play since Posh which centred around an Oxford University dining club called “The Riot Club”, a fictionalised version of the Bullingdon Club, is billed by producers Bill Kenwright, Theatr Clwyd and the National Theatre as a thought-provoking comedy. It is certainly thought-provoking and it did win the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2019 in which case that year must have been a very poor one for new comedies.

It is not a bad play, it just isn’t very funny and I’m not sure it is supposed to be. Actually, much of it is very sad. Wade’s play (not comedy) is predominantly an examination of gender roles past and present, and how all that we wish for through rose-tinted glasses may not be everything we’d expected. Deliberately or not you can’t help but ask yourself if the play having been written two years after the Brexit vote is just a coincidence.

In the main it is an accomplished cast. Jessica Ransom plays Judy who looks and sounds like a stereotypical Welwyn Garden City post-war housewife but there’s very little nuance in her performance which means it comes across as just that – stereotypical.

Neil McDermott is the stand out as Judy’s husband, Johnny and there is excellent support from Cassie Bradley and Matthew Douglas as friends Fran and Marcus although I could have done without the irritating and wholly unnecessary choreographed scene changes which held up the action and just extended the running time.

Special mention for Nicola Andreou making her professional debut and stepping in to play Johnny’s boss, Alex. Understudies are poorly treated in the world of theatre and never given enough time to rehearse yet hers was an assured and polished performance.

Most of the best lines go to Diane Keen who plays Judy’s mother, Sylvia who is infuriated by her daughter’s lifestyle choice. She is a child of the 1950s and has no fondness for the bygone age. She remembers that the 50s weren’t great if you happened to be gay, black or indeed, a woman. Keen is slow and laborious in her delivery though and very, very quiet which probably explains the need for half a dozen floor microphones downstage of the actors which pick up every footstep and ruin the overall sound design by Tom Gibbons.

Tamara Harvey’s direction is competent without being flamboyant and Anna Fleishie’s Set and Costume Designs are exquisite. What holds this production together and makes it worth a visit is Wade’s clever and subtle writing which doesn’t look back on the good old days as the answer to today’s societal issues. The solutions are unlikely to be found in the past when life wasn’t always ‘funny’.


Reviewer: Patric Kearns