Peter Paltos and Susie Youssef have spent the start of 2020 learning to bicker and jive with each other as Home, I’m Darling’s Fran and Marcus. We speak to them about the characters’ complex relationship, exploring the #MeToo movement in the show and taking 50s dance lessons.
You play husband & wife in the play. It’s hinted that Fran and Marcus are relatively newlywed – they still haven’t had a honeymoon – but there also seems to be some tension between them. How do you both view their relationship?
PETER & SUSIE: We have spoken about this extensively and we think that it is a very complex relationship – there is a lot of love there but they obviously quarrel quite a bit. We think maybe they are one of those couples who fight as foreplay. They are somewhere between George and Martha and Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama.
Marcus ends up revealing that he’s more than just “huggy”or “tactile”. How do you get in the mindset to play a character like that? And how do you let it go after each performance?
PETER: There are so many examples of toxic and predatory male behaviour in my life and our culture, all of which helped cultivate the mindset needed to create and play Marcus. As far as letting-go of Marcus post show, I just remind myself of the politics he is of service to and that eclipses any yucky vibz.
‘I feel very lucky to be working with this extraordinary company and will happily accept their offer to move to Melbourne and live at the Sumner Theatre in the Green Room.’
The play touches on something that hasn’t been talked about much with #MeToo and #TimesUP, which is how spouses of the men in question cope. What’s your take on this?
SUSIE: I think Fran is at a crucial moment in her life. She says she believes Marcus but she can't help but wonder if he’s different with other people than he is with her. I think this is her struggle; if she believes that Marcus is capable of such behaviour, it will shake her foundations. Sometimes we are wilfully ignorant so as not to burst the bubble we live in. I tried not to be judgemental of Fran because I think whatever happens next will define her and I’m so curious if she and Marcus stay together. A sequel please, Laura Wade?
You had dance lessons for these roles – how was learning to jive?
PETER: Intimidating and embarrassing and then kinda fun and cute.
SUSIE: Terrifying at first, but I absolutely love it now.
What has been your favourite part of playing these characters? And the most challenging?
PETER: Favourite: Marcus’s peacocking and playfulness. Most Challenging: learning to jive dance and working with the horrible Susie Youssef.
SUSIE: Fran is an awkward, nosey neighbour but she has some killer lines. I love her contradictions. A strong, independent, working woman who is good at her job but unsettled in her marriage. It was so hard to be furious at her for initially believing Marcus but I grew to understand her better during the process.
Susie, Home, I’m Darling is your debut with MTC. How have you found the experience so far?
SUSIE: Working with Peter Paltos has been a living nightmare. But the rest of the cast and production team are fantastic and so talented. I feel very lucky to be working with this extraordinary company and will happily accept their offer to move to Melbourne and live at the Sumner Theatre in the Green Room.
‘My favourite line has to be Fran’s response to Marcus saying his mother would be turning in her grave at the thought of Fran making tea in a mug: “She can’t, you cremated her.” – bravo Fran!’
Do you think it’s fair to say that the character of Fran gets the play’s funniest lines?
SUSIE: It’s hard to say if her lines are funny or the actor is just comedically brilliant. Maybe both? Honestly, the play has so many hilarious lines. The most exciting part of the process for me was learning how the British pronunciation and cadence adds so much to the comedy. I’ve loved discovering how the physicality of the piece and sprinkling of sight gags enhance the show.
Do you have a favourite line or scene, in this play? Why is it your favourite?
PETER: I love the Afternoon Tea scene in act one. It’s fun exploring the couples’ interpersonal dynamics.
SUSIE: My favourite line has to be Fran’s response to Marcus saying his mother would be turning in her grave at the thought of Fran making tea in a mug: “She can’t, you cremated her.” – bravo Fran!
Why is a play like Home, I’m Darling important in 2020, do you think?
PETER: Home, I’m Darling is important because it’s a piece written by and exploring the female experience.
SUSIE: Laura Wade has written a beautiful play that is both devastating and hilarious. Sadly the ideas surrounding consent, harassment and fear of the outside world are all too familiar across genders and generations. I think it is not only important for audiences today but will remain relevant for a long time.
Home, I'm Darling is on at The Southbank Theatre until 29 February
Published on 26 February 2020