In the midst of Olivier nominations, Home, I'm Darling continues its UK tour with Katherine Parkinson in the lead - a masterful turn. Emily Garside reviews:

Judy (Katherine Parkinson) doesn’t really know what ‘the baking show’ is, or where Castro has gone. But in the current news climate, overrun with another B-word, the desire to pull the exit cord on modern life and slip back to a ‘simpler’ time is more than a little tempting. That’s what Judy has done. Turned her house, and her life into a perfect 1950s fantasy.

Home, I'm Darling

Richard Harrington & Katherine Parkinson (image courtesy of Manuel Harlan)

Anna Fleischle has created the perfect 50s fantasy in the Home, I’m Darling set – a two-story home with a few ‘magic’ touches. The house is a silent, additional character in the piece, a place Judy has created as both retreat and prison. Tamara Harvey directs with precision and the piece is expertly choreographed by Charlotte Broom. Keeping tight focus and pace gives Laura Wade’s writing a tightness that focuses and brings out the best in it. The close collaboration between director and writer is apparent.

Home, I’m Darling is also a show in which female voices ring clear – every aspect is seen via the women’s perspective. So even when these viewpoints are contrasting, even conflicting, everything is still shaped by women’s take on the world – even the men are seen through their eyes.

Home, I'm Darling

Katherine Parkinson & Sara Gregory (image courtesy of Manuel Harlan)

Parkinson is the anchor of the piece, offering an often brittle but resilient performance. It’s appaprent that there is far more she knows about Judy than what is directly spoken in Wade’s text, and it shows in her assured manner on stage. Parkinson is an expert at comedy, offering a lightness to the edges of Wade’s writing that also betrays the darkness of the character.

Richard Harrington as husband Johnny plays it sweet and endearing while Hywel Morgan gives a deft performance as Marcus. Sara Gregory and Siubhan Harrison offer contrasting depictions of the ‘modern women’ in Judy’s life and manage to convey much from their shorter stage time. Meanwhile Susan Brown as Sylvia, Judy’s mother, delivers her second act speech with such storming urgency that all the women in the audience shout out in agreement.

Home, i'm Darling

Susan Brown (image courtesy of Manuel Harlan)

Brown’s speech also highlights elements lacking in the writing. Sylvia is the most sensible and perhaps most interesting of the characters, yet there is no true mirror to her speech. Through this, questions around Judy’s life and mental health are exposed but never resolved. Wade’s brilliant, witty and clever narrative falls short at this final moment. A neat resolution to the play is by no means necessary, but there’s an element of feeling incomplete.

Home, I’m Darling is a beautifully crafted piece of work, in writing and execution. There is a certain beauty in this theatrical storytelling that has all the surface elements of sophistication, beauty and wit, but also isn’t afraid of its darker undertones. It unashamedly uncovers the dust behind such things that seem so pristine on first glance.

★★★★☆

Home, I’m Darling tours UK venues until 4 May 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the show website.