Review: Home, I’m Darling – Sydney Theatre Company

As seen on ArtsHub Australia

The term ‘nostalgia’ has come to be a marketing strategy in our current world, particularly when so much is uncertain and unknown, it seems sane to want to slip back into a ‘golden’ era of the world. The word comes from the Homeric Greek nostos meaning ‘homecoming’ and algos meaning ‘ache’ or ‘pain’ – in essence the term nostalgia was considered something more akin to a sickness rather than an identity or new fad. Sydney Theatre Company’s premiere of Home, I’m Darling aims to focus on the former, channelling the ‘nostalgic’ era of the 50’s in the Sydney Opera House’s Drama Theatre.

Home, I’m Darling focuses on couple Judy (Andrea Demetriades) and Johnny (Anthony Taufa), two 1950’s enthusiasts who are currently living an experimental way of living, swapping 21st century living for perfect pastel bathrooms, mid-century Knick Knacks and the smell of good old fashioned home cooking. In short, the pair are hiding away in their own nostalgic fantasy. Along with the concern from Judy’s feminist empowered mother, Sylvia (Tracy Mann) and best friend Fran (Chantelle Jamieson), Judy’s insistence on seeing this lifestyle preserved is tested in the form of Johnny’s new boss, Alex (Kirsty Marillier), the cost of living in a 50’s bubble and the reality that perhaps this era of nostalgia was more dystopic than idyllic for most.

Anthony Taufa and Andrea Demetriades in Sydney Theatre Company’s Home, I’m Darling. Photo Prudence Upton

Director Jessica Arthur homes in on detailing a layered production that fools its audience at first into thinking that they are watching something akin to I Love Lucy, that is until an Apple Computer is pulled from a cupboard draw. Just as Marvel’s WandaVision dealt with hiding in an idyllically nostalgic fantasy world to disguise trauma and grief, Arthur skilfully establishes that Judy and Johnny, whilst seemingly impossibly happy on the surface, may be living a lie that will be impossible to maintain. Arthur has directed an impeccably choreographed production, that on the surface presents as a fluffy comedy, however with a closer look at the script reveals an exploration of the lies we create to hide our own fears and insecurities, and the lengths one will go through to bury them.

Working with designer Genevieve Blanchett, the pair produce an outstanding set and costume design that more or less steals the show. Blanchett creates a set that is both real and somewhat false at the same time, from the 50’s era fridge, to the disgustingly pink pastel bathroom. Whilst the setting for the production immediately harkens to an American comedy, Blanchett’s keen eye for detail goes down to the structure of the property, an English Garden City suburban estate home. With multiple costume changes for Demetriades, Blanchett’s immaculate costume design ranges from 50’s housewife, to debonair debutante in a matter of seconds.

As the optimistic Judy, Demetriades is the productions heart and soul. Sporting a smile that feels plastered on and ready to shatter at any moment, Demetriades chews through Judy’s dialogue, landing the comedy with expert timing and bringing Judy to breaking point just as it seems her nostalgic bubble is about to burst. The show’s most powerful moments come from a frighteningly relevant discussion regarding Fran’s husband, Marcus’ (Gareth Davies) interactions with a female colleague – a future scene of desperation becomes bone chillingly close to reality and is expertly played by Demetriades.

Playing the waited-on husband, Johnny, Taufa revels in the comedy of his character, revealing his mixed emotions towards the experiment his wife has led him down. For the most part, Taufa is outacted by his counterpart, as he struggles to fully project himself into the space of the Drama Theatre which at times swallows his character up.

Photo by Prudence Upton

Laura Wade’s script poses many juxtapositions between feminism and nostalgia, most of which are embodied in the supporting cast. Mann’s Sylvia chews through an outstanding second-act monologue regarding a woman’s place in the 50’s in an attempt to snap her daughter out of her fragile bubble. Jamieson’s Fran, whilst mostly monotone throughout, provides a torn character that speaks to the women in today’s society when it comes to the line drawn when needing to stand by one’s husband.
And in direct contradiction to Demetriades’ Judy, Marillier’s Alex bursts through the scenery in confident form as Johnny’s new female boss – Arthur uses this to provide cunning imagery of fantasy versus reality.

Home, I’m Darling, discusses multiple notions of fear, in a world where the unknown is present for us all, but struggles to directly hold its audience throughout, with energy that dips in and out, never fully reaching breaking point for its characters to create a sense of extreme emotional impact.

The production itself serves as a relatable piece of theatre in a climate full of uncertainty, offering its audiences a message that perhaps hiding away in a fiction may not be as tranquil as it seems.

Reviewer Rating:

★★★.5

Home, I’m Darling is now playing at the Sydney Opera House until 15 May

Director: Jessica Arthur

Designer: Genevieve Blanchett

Lighting Designer: Verity Hampson

Composer & Sound Designer: James Brown

Choreographer: Leslie Bell

Assistant Director: Justice Jones

Voice & Text Coach: Danielle Roffe

Performances: 6 April – 15 May

Venue: Sydney Opera House (NSW)

Prices:

Single tickets

Mon – Thu performances

Adult A Reserve $96

B Reserve $90

Fri & Sat performances

A Reserve $99

B Reserve $93

Seniors cardholder $90

Concession $75

Under 30 $49


About the author
Justin is an actor, writer, teacher and European tour guide. Raised in Western Sydney, he always had an avid love for theatre and the spontaneous. Being a Drama and English trained teacher, Justin has developed his writing for publishers such as Theatre People and ArtsHub. Justin’s past theatre credits include directing Stiles and Drew’s Soho Cinders, the ‘brave’ Sir Robin in Spamalot for Arcadians Theatre and the French Taunter/Tim in Spamalot for Springers UK, and his debut role as Muldoon in Jurassic: That is One Big Pile of Musical. As the years have gone by, Justin has taken a great interest in swallowing as much theatre as he can and bringing it to the masses through the establishment of Theatre Thoughts.


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