Theatre in Wales

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A Joy

At Theatr Clwyd

Theatr Clwyd & Royal National Theatre- Home, I'm Darling , Dorfman Theatre, London , July 27, 2018
At Theatr Clwyd by Theatr Clwyd & Royal National Theatre- Home, I'm Darling “The work of Theatr Clwyd should be regularly coming to town” wrote David Hare on New Year's Day in a declaration of everything, at least in his view, that made for fine theatre. The phrasing may have been quaint, not to say revealing, but the prescription has been fulfilled. In the Dorfman all summer Richard Harrington will be skipping the two floors of designer Anna Fleischle's Welwyn home with a cherubic lightness. The mood in Laura Wade's play changes; his performance also alters with a fine calibration.

2018 is set to be one of those marker year for theatre of Wales. In February the South scored the triple O (Owen + O'Riordan = Olivier Award). Five months on the North collaborates with the South Bank on terms of more than equality. There is a press night marked for the 31st in London but the whole critical gang- Mark Shenton and Henry Hitchings are the only exceptions of weight- have already boldly made the trip north of Highbury Corner. (H. Corner is the line of northerly latitude that embraces the Almeida and Hampstead theatres.) The critical record is spattered with acclaim and the full 5 stars.

Focus has naturally leaned toward lead, director and designer. Natalie Haynes: “the night belongs to Katherine Parkinson, who radiates an almost luminous brittleness: Judy is so desperate to maintain her artificial existence that she reminds us not of Doris Day but of Blanche DuBois.” The set is on the scale that Max Jones created for Terry Hands' version of “A Small Family Business.” Dominic Maxwell picked out Tamara Harvey's “sympathetic, propulsive direction.”

But there is more to “Home, I'm Darling”. Laura Wade has been praised in general terms but none have picked up the formal qualities. Dramatists of quality are just as skilled in achieving their effects when the words stop. In particular they use physical objects, plain props. Here a sandwich is taken uneaten from a lunch box. There are no words and it speaks volumes. Richard Harrington says “ho ho” and it cuts deep. Laura Wade at ten minutes in constructs an action that tells us something is amiss. We do not know quite what but it gives the play its momentum. And she constructs a first act ending of class. It ends on a climax and we have small idea of how the second act will pan out.

And a “f***” is to be heard, but only after an hour. It is given to Kathryn Drysdale's Fran, its purpose not to evoke a fake authenticity. In context it forms part of the forward action, as well as raising a laugh.

It is a six actor play, the characters skillfully interwoven. There is a subsidiary theme for Judy, that adult life is an aspiration to make good the hurts of childhood. Sian Thomas gets to deliver a speech on the 1950s which earns a mid-scene applause on its own merits. And Sara Gregory is in the cast too. As an estate agency branch manager she gets to play a couple of scenes, albeit crucial to Laura Wade's design. Her Alex, beneath a sheet of black hair, hits the managerial role head on in both its briskness and brittleness. With memories of Blodeuwedd, from a formidable production, fresh in the mind she is evidence of the sheer versatility of the art.

The credits are shared across Wales and England. The producing side in Mold comprises William James and Jim Davis. Debbie Knight is wardrobe manager for the lustrous costumes on show. The set is the work of the Clwyd team under workshop manager Steve Eccleson.

“Are you happy, darling?” runs an early line. “Terribly” runs the reply.


“Home, I'm Darling” continues until September 5th

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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