★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Best-known for playing Jen in The IT Crowd or Laura in Humans, Katherine Parkinson's latest role on stage at the National Theatre sees her play 38-year-old Judy in Laura Wade's newest play Home, I'm Darling.
Judy is on a quest to be the perfect 1950s housewife and the play opens with her cooking her husband Johnny, played by Richard Harrington, breakfast. I say cooking, it's only toast, but there is homemade marmalade. With fifties music playing on the radio there's nothing around the set to suggest that this play is set anywhere other than fifties.
But when Johnny leaves for work, we see Judy pull out a Macbook from a drawer and place it on the table. It's at this point that we realise the couple are living in today's world but have chosen to adopt a 1950s lifestyle. We later hear her speak of eBay and watch as she pours milk from a supermarket bought bottle into a glass bottle and a bag of flour into a tin.
Their fridge doesn’t work, she doesn’t work, but this “arrangement” as Johnny is brave enough to describe it as, does seem to work. Over breakfast, they discuss how terribly and appallingly happy they are. But how true are they being to themselves?
Is this simply a case of a role play that’s gotten out of hand? Has it done more harm to their relationship than good? And with only one wage coming in, what does this mean for their financial situation?
These are all questions which of course are answered as the story unfolds as we meet Judy’s mother Sylvia, played by the fantastic Sian Thomas and Johnny’s new boss at work Alex, played by Sara Gregory. There’s also best friend Fran played by the delightful Kathryn Drysdale and her husband Marcus, played by Barnaby Kay.
Another character which plays a pivotal role in Home, I’m Darling is the dollhouse-like set, designed by Anna Fleischle.
Whilst the dialogue and acting is superb your eye can't help but wander around the beautifully designed set, whether it's the bedroom and bathroom upstairs or the yellow kitchen and green living room downstairs, every detail of this set has been thought about at length and looks like it was lifted straight from the 1950s.
It's difficult to imagine anyone other than Katherine Parkinson playing the part of Judy. Her fragility, her comic timing and her transformation into this perfect 1950s housewife has the audience hanging on her every word whilst questioning her life choices.
Richard Harrington as Johnny is an equal match for Parkinson and whilst his character is often at conflict with the decisions made by Judy, they're hugely likeable as a couple and the audience are fully invested and care for where the play decides to take them.
Home, I'm Darling is beautifully staged, beautifully choreographed and beautifully acted. A joy from start to finish, you will not regret choosing to spend your evening in the company of Judy and Johnny.
Home, I'm Darling runs until 5th September at 7:30pm at the National Theatre (Dorfman Theatre). Book tickets here. Additional tickets for sold out performances will be available via Friday Rush and Day Tickets.
(This review is based on the press night performance from Tuesday 31st July)