Katherine Parkinson to star in Home, I’m Darling at The Lowry

Katherine Parkinson in Home, I'm Darling Credit, Manuel Harlan

Katherine Parkinson in Home, I'm Darling Credit, Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

Katherine Parkinson’s current role sees her playing the part of a 1950’s housewife, but all in the garden is not rosy.

Katherine Parkinson in Home, I'm Darling
Credit, Manuel Harlan

Katherine Parkinson in Home, I'm Darling Credit, Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

Home, I’m Darling is a new comedy written by Laura Wade, specifically with Katherine Parkinson in mind. Laura is famed for her 2015 adaption of Victorian novel Tipping the Velvet and her own original play Posh, which was re-named The Riot Club when she adapted it for TV in 2014. Knowing this, one shouldn’t be surprised at being surprised by her new play.

‘It’s an unusual project,’ says Katherine. ‘It began seven years ago and I have been very involved in the whole process. She started with an idea that came after she saw a documentary about vintage living.’

Judy and her husband are living a 1950’s lifestyle in 2019. Their home is fully decorated in 1950’s style, they dress in 1950’s fashions, drink cocktails and dance, while Judy’s role is that of full-time housewife, dedicated to keeping the house spick and span and looking pretty for her husband when he arrives home from work. It’s very funny and very clever.

Katherine’s Judy is marvellous; she has taken her commitment to housewife duties to the nth degree, from her cleaning routines, ‘it’s so satisfying cleaning behind things’, to preparing a freshly boiled egg for her husband’s breakfast, which he eats while they exclaim upon their happiness: “Are you happy darling?” he asks. “Terribly. Aren’t you?” “Oh yes, appallingly.”

I asked Katherine how she developed Judy’s character, brittle and bright as she is.

‘I have often played characters that have been a bit obsessive and a bit unusual and I realised that Judy too was quite an obsessive person; not mad, but definitely somebody with a level of mania that she’s taken to extremes.’

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As you would expect, there’s debate – both on stage and in the minds of the audience – about why Judy is living her life in this way. Judy argues with her mother that she is the ultimate feminist: “This is what I’ve chosen,” she says, asking why she should need a job to feel fulfilled. Yet it becomes clear that she’s not happy – and nor is her husband.

‘The play in a way shows us that feminism is good for all of us, not just good for women,’ Katherine says. ‘The scene where Judy’s mother tells it how it really was I see as a proper feminist rallying cry. It’s good for marriages; it’s all about dialogue and communication and changing as circumstances change. And I think that’s why the play doesn’t end as everyone expects it to end; it’s a feel-good play with a proper happy ending. Loves triumphs and I can feel this lands with the audience. So many of us are in relationships that have ups and downs and it’s relevant to a lot of people; things change and you’ve got to constantly navigate that change, but it’s worth it.’

It’s a beautiful play, on all levels. Katherine’s dresses are just glorious; their home is pure Doris Day, all sunshine and daisies and a cocktail trolley; and the music and dance that happens at each scene change is pure happy.

‘I love the dresses! In my 20’s and 30’s I was very into vintage fashions. All of this is showing the allure of the era,’ Katherine explains. ‘Judy has an aesthetic appreciation of the 1950’s and her forensic brain follows it through to every tiny detail. It all shows why she would be intoxicated by all this, but in reality it’s not so great.’

The play launched with Theatre Clwyd, in Mold, in 2018, selling out there and then at its run in London. It travels from London to Bath for one week before moving on to The Lowry, again for one week.

‘I love touring,’ Katherine tells me. ‘I am basically using it as an opportunity to enjoy having got to the end of the London run and just sort of celebrate a bit as well – by buying things in Harvey Nichols in Manchester.’

Retail therapy, 2019-style.

Home, I’m Darling runs at The Lowry from 23 – 27 April