Melbourne Theatre Company open their 2020 season with Laura Wade’s ( award-winning playwright and screenwriter from the UK) Home, I’m Darling – a scintillating, funny and, at times, disturbing examination of artificiality and fantasy lost in the nevermore of the 1950’s. Wade’s Stepford Wives-esque expose of class, gender divide, feminism and debilitating obsession is not what it seems on the surface – for husband and wife, Judy and Johnny, taking refuge in an unstable structure becomes filled with pitfalls as each artificial wall comes down and reveals what really lies beneath.
“Initially it would seem like Laura Wade is writing an examination of idyllic 50’s culture and colour (which does exist somewhat), but beyond that, the play deals with the idea of where the line of reality and fantasy collide, and how nostalgia can be a comfort and used as protection,” says cast member Izabella Yena (The Violent Outbursts that Drew Me to You.) “There have been some wonderful conversations that have arisen in rehearsals with Sarah and the cast about the gender divides in the domestic setting, choice and how that affects others/is inherently a privilege and feminism now and in the 50’s.”
VCA graduate, Yena, plays Alex, the manager of the branch Johnny works at and his new boss. Her fiercely contemporary nature mixed with a quick wit and direct curiosity, catches Judy off guard. Yena explains that we first meet her in Judy and Johnny’s home as they try to showcase Johnny who is in the running for a promotion at work, but Alex’s straight and honest nature is somewhat at odds with the perfect 50’s lifestyle. The 21st century meets the past.
Yena really admires how ambitious Alex is; she’s always chasing some kind of goal. “She’s a career-focused woman who doesn’t apologize for anything and in many ways I find that really admirable because we all know who difficult that can be,” she says.
The play garnered rave reviews when it opened in 2018, and has since won the 2019 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. Wade’s plays are long in gestation (her work, Posh, was three years in the making) but we know how that slow and steady story ends…Wade is undoubtedly an artist in writing and insight, creating plays and stories that are able to surprise and prod, her style finds levels that resonate with both actor and audience, and stir the pot of not only present events but events that haven’t even happened yet.
” One of the best bits about Wade’s writing is that often characters aren’t saying what they mean or really want to say; double and sometimes triple meanings,” says Yena. “They’re often being caught off guard and in situations they’ve never had to navigate before, which is so enjoyable to play and find away to untangle your character.”
Yena says she was really drawn to the script because of the humour. ” I kept giggling to myself when I first read it and to be honest it only got funnier once we got on the floor! We have a brilliant cast who are so hilarious, sometimes it’s hard to make it through a scene without cry-laughing.”
Yena is also thrilled to be working with director (and MTC Associate Artistic Director) Sarah Goodes, and the rest of the creative team. “Sarah has a really encouraging energy in the room and works collaboratively with set and costume, designed by Renee Mulder, as well as lighting (Paul Jackson) and sound (Jethro Woodward),” says Yena. “Everyone’s interpretation and perspective on the play and characters ultimately helps build a richer world for us to inhabit, which is a dream.”
Home, I’m Darling is a piercing look inside the gilded-cage of both mind and matter – a tidy little construct with all the power of a 1950’s atom.
Yena hopes audiences will be able to empathize with the lengths Judy goes to, to preserve her perfectly envisioned life. “The fear of breaking façade and truly facing reality is, I believe, universal,” she says. “Perhaps through seeing the show audiences will be able to ask themselves where the line is between idealization and disillusion exists in their own lives.”
Nikki Shiels is outstanding as Judy, and the stella cast: Jane Turner, Peter Paltos, Toby Truslove, and Susie Youssef, will make you laugh till your cheeks hurt!
January 20 – February 22