Review: Home, I’m Darling at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton

Our community reporter Gill gives us the scoop on a bold and bright new performance at the Octagon Theatre.

There is something uncannily familiar about this set. Yes, the kitchen reminds me of my aunt’s.

Lino floor. Formica topped table. Auntie Lily’s kitchen chairs. And the lounge part too. That coffee table with the screw-on legs. What we used to call “contemporary” furniture. The parquet floor. And there was also something familiar about the costumes. The big dress with the full skirt. Red lipstick. Curled hair. Dapper two-tone shoes for him and a smart fifties-style suit. That’s what’s familiar.

The play, written by Laura Wade and directed by Liz Stevenson, appears to be set in the 1950s. Or, at least the 1950s that advertising then encouraged us to aspire to.

Auntie Lily’s kitchen was in fact far more luxurious than the one in our home, which harked back to the 1940s. Even though Auntie Lily had to cross the communal backyard to get to the lav.

But the play isn’t about the 1950s. It’s about a 21st-century couple who try to live as if in the 1950s. And again an idealised lifestyle is offered. She stays at home and cooks, cleans and offers him slippers and a pre-dinner cocktail when he gets home from work. He is the sole breadwinner and enjoys the status that brings.

It isn’t as idealistic as it looks, though. There are 21st-century problems aplenty. She clashes with her feminist mother. He has the pressure of targets to meet and is overlooked for promotion. She is defined by their relationship and is not a person in her own right. And they fall into debt.

Yet this is all presented in a light-hearted way. The cast perform their own set changes and we are treated to jolly music and some lively dancing as they do so. There are many moments that make us laugh.

Copyright: Ellie Kurtz

This is in fact a co-production of the Octagon Theatre Bolton, the Theatre by the Lake and the Stephen Joseph Theatre. You can also watch a version streamed to your home. Is this a way that theatre is making a comeback as we get to grips with the pandemic? Co-productions and a supplementary audience who watch from home? Is this a model that might continue?

On the other hand, as one person who saw the production live at the Octagon said:

“I think it’s appropriate that it’s called Home and Darling when we’re coming back to the theatre for the first time in a long time.”

The production runs at the Octagon until 2 October and you can find out more and grab a ticket here

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