“Well it’s been a bumpy ride hasn’t it”
A new play by April De Angelis and directed by Nina Raine, Jumpy has all the makings of another success for the Royal Court and great word of mouth has meant that it is now sold out for the run. It’s a portrait of a fractured family: Hilary is under pressure at work, her husband Mark is becoming increasingly distant and her relationship with her bolshy teenage daughter Tilly is practically non-existent. Despite having just turned 50, life doesn’t seem to be getting any easier and it plays out in a mixture of comedy and moving drama.
Tamsin Greig is brilliant as Hilary, going through something of a midlife crisis as her disillusionment with so much of her life catches up with her, distant memories of protesting at Greenham Common provoked by the antics of her sexually precocious daughter, a terrifyingly convincing turn from Bel Powley, who even at 15 dresses highly provocatively, goes clubbing looking for footballers yet overestimates her capacity to deal with the responsibilities of such behaviour. Dealing with the inevitable ramifications brings Tilly’s boyfriend and his parents in to the picture, another couple fractured in their own way and whose interactions impact just as much on Hilary as they do on Tilly.
Sarah Woodward’s icy Bea is also excellent but totally underused but Richard Lintern as her actor husband with a wandering eye is most appealing and totally convincing in the way he identifies an easy and willing target in Hilary. Her responses to his flirtations are genius as is most anything she does, especially with a later encounter with one of her daughter’s ‘friends’ whilst bandaging an injured leg. This subtle but devastatingly effective comic performance from Greig is contrasted wildly by Doon Mackichan’s brash Frances, Hilary’s uber-confident contemporary and would-be burlesque dancer who mines a much more obvious vein of comedy with a jaw-dropping moment or two.
It’s funny how expectations govern responses so much, my immediate response was that this wasn’t as sophisticated as one might expect from the Royal Court, but whilst that might me just being a bit humourless I did feel that De Angelis’ writing slipped from the comedy of the first half into something far weaker in the second, inserting dramatic moments that felt at odds with how Raine’s production had been progressing. For me the play succeeded at being funny but failed at marrying that with a more serious side that genuinely convinced – there’s so much passivity at work which I just didn’t buy from several of the characters, what seems like an interesting look at how marriages can become purely functional rather than passionate is quietly dropped and I thought the contrasting ideas towards materialism could have been further developed.
But perhaps I doth protest too much. Jumpy is mostly an excellent comedy, relatable as it is feminist without being militant and much of the family dynamics on display seemed to hit a chord with most of the audience at one point or another. And Tamsin Greig is absolutely superb in it, the kind of comic performance that really does make me laugh because it is so rarely overplayed (qv every farce I have ever seen…) You’ll have a job trying to pick up a ticket for this but it could well be worth it – a strong recommendation to lighten up the early dark nights.