Friday 3 September 2021

THEATRE REVIEW: Home, I'm Darling - The Octagon Theatre, Bolton.

Co-produced by Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre, Theatre By The Lake (Keswick), and Bolton's Octagon, this is the delightful,. if slightly dotty and surreal comedy from the pen of Laura Wade, 'Home, I'm Darling'.

The play takes as its premise that a young married couple have decided (for a trial period only) to recreate the 1950s as perfectly as they possibly can, and so their house, their clothes and even thier lifestyles are a 'homage' to that decade - a decade that neither of them actually lived through and so know only through rose-tinted nostalgic spectacles. They even go so far as to allow the husband to be the 'breadwinner', leaving the home each morning with his lunchbox to go to work - and indeed, it does seem that he is the only one of the two who has any real and meaningful contact with the present day - whilst the wife gives up her well-paid managerial position and happily becomes a housewife. All seems practically perfect for them. That is until the modern world interferes with their lifestyle a little too much, and secrets and lies are discovered which threaten to disturb this delicate decade-balancing act they have created. 

The opening is very twee, and for a  few minutes I was beginning to hate the play... but actually the writing is delightful, the direction (Liz Stevenson) on point, and as the play gathers momentum (especially in act 2) it is excellently observed and very funny. The set (Helen Coyston) being a vision of precision and 1950's perfection. Everything looked authentic, making the most of the Octagon's in-the-round space.

Sandy Foster plays the protagonist Judy, with a certain surreal realism (if that isn't too much of an oxymoron) and is an absolute joy to watch, whilst her husband, Johnny, played with great gusto by Tom Klanji has the difficult role of trying to live in the 1950s when he is home, and laughing off his excentricities when he is at work in the present day. It is through him that the cracks begin to show in their 'ideal' arrangement. Both Foster and Kanji are superb in their roles and work off and from each other with seeming accustomed ease. 

A sub-plot involving another couple who are also members of the retro '50s vibe club, and the very contemporary issue of workplace sexual harrassment is woven in nicely to the texture of the play. Here played by Vicky Binns (Fran) and Sam Jenkins-Shaw (Marcus) who both peform their roles with realism and relish. 

Completing the cast are Alex (Sophie Marcell), who is Johnny's new boss at work, and Judy's mother, Sylvia (Susan Twist). Both characters have lovely roles within the play, and help the narrative drive to be pushed into the well-observed denouement. Judy's attempts at perfect housewife status being thwarted at every turn by both: Alex is a younger female and potential love rival; and her mother is a militant feminist who keeps showing her daughter how the '50s really were.

A lovely directorial decision to choreograph each scene change with contemporaneous music was also a delight, and added to rather than detracted from the whole. 

A thoroughly enjoyable evening in the company of six very talented performers who will transport you into an idealised world which even in the 1950s, didn't truly exist. Clever, funny, and a great start to Bolton Octagon's re-opening season. 

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 2.9.21

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