The Theatreguide.London Review
National Theatre Summer 2018, Duke Of York's Theatre 2019
Laura Wade's play takes us to a 1950s dolls house, where everything is colour coordinated, clean and very tidy.
The radio plays a 1950s song, with its lyrical line of 'Mr Sandman, bring me a dream.'
Katherine Parkinson as Judy prepares the breakfast, makes the sandwiches and sends her husband Johnny (Richard Harrington) in his suit colour coordinated with the decor, off to work with a kiss.
Things couldn't look cosier. But then there is an audible gasp from the audience as Judy pulls out a laptop. For it was only when she was made redundant from her job in corporate finance that she decided to recreate herself as a 1950s style homemaker.
And why not? Judy points out to sceptics such as her mother Sylvia (Susan Brown) that she is a feminist who has won the right to choose and she chooses the 1950s not just for its aesthetics but also for its cultural values in which she claims people were nicer to each other.
It seems to work. She initially seems happy. Johnny never has to make any meals and is even greeted with a cocktail as he returns from work each day. Judy’s friends Fran (Siobhan Harrison) and Marcus (Hywel Morgan) join in with some of their activities, including a trip to Jivestock, a festival for fans of 1950s dance.
Yet there are things that start to niggle. When Fran mentions seeing Johnny in Pizza Pronto with a young woman, Judy worries something might be going on and tells her husband that if there is, she doesn’t want to know.
She is quick to hide letters that reveal their financial difficulties. Johnny finds his sales at work have fallen and wonders if its a result of wearing old style clothes. And Marcos is suspended from his job for allegedly groping his female PA.
The modern world with all its problems and anxieties just keeps intruding. And the 1950s were not that comfortable really.
Judy's mother says they were cold, bland and prejudiced against gays and any kind of difference. Even Johnny begins to object to what he talks about as her retreat into a fantasy world when he wants honesty.
Katherine Parkinson is particularity impressive as a confident woman trying to live in denial of the messy world that exists.
The dialogue is witty, most scenes have an element of fun and the play has very serious things to say about that section of society that thinks it can escape the world into some picture postcard vacuum.
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