Home, I’m Darling

There are moments when I successfully manage to avoid reading too much about a new play before it arrives at Theatre Royal Brighton. This was one such occasion, of course I had heard that it was well received and a fun evening at the theatre, but I sat down with few preconceptions and for that I was rather grateful.

The cartoon like presentation, the moments of farce, the stylish choreographed transitions and the excellent costumes make the evening colourful and fun. There are some moments of delightful comedy and of gentle romance and the story unfolds, twists and turns with ease.

But it is the twisting and turning that makes this work and the gradual reveal of the story which provokes thoughts that stretch way beyond comedy.

On one level you could sit through this and absorb it as a light, but I sat there and felt a deepening sense of sadness. This is an exploration of changing gender roles, challenging stereotypes, feminism, sexism, harassment and how we behave in relation to all these as we move forward in time. And right now those of us who remember, just, the 1950s will surely be most aware of how things have really changed and wondering whether for the better or not.

Jessica Ransom is simply delightful as Judy and presents as a 50s housewife with ease, a rendering perhaps more akin to Americana than suburban Britain, I was seeing more Mary Tyler Moore and Samantha in Bewitched than Yootha Joyce, but it certainly worked. Neil McDermott’s Johnny is delightfully brittle, his delight at having the stay-home housewife turning on a sixpence to lascivious in a way that exposes his disguised reality. Cassie Bradley is totally convincing as best friend Fran and Matthew Douglas is equally impressive as her husband Marcus.

Diane Keen’s comic timing as mother Sylvia is perfection and her big speech is searingly good.

The role of Alex is a complex bridge between those living out their 50’s experiment and the present and on this occasion understudied with a sure hand by Nicola Andreou in a performance that gained her approval from both audience and cast.

Laura Wade’s play is touched by humour and tinged with sadness and works well on both levels and Tamara Harvey’s direction has clarity as she handles both the fun and the fire. Finally Anna Fleischle’s costumes are so so good that at moments I was seeing my own mother walking across that stage!

Andrew Kay

11 April

Theatre Royal Brighton

Rating: ★★★★☆

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