Madeleine Loftin's enjoyable production of Tom Stoppard's surreal satire on moral philosophy marks the play's fortieth anniversary and its first London appearance since 2003.
When a member of a troupe of moral relativists-cum-gymnasts known as the Jumpers is killed in the home of George – a beleaguered academic trying, in the face of widespread disdain, to prove God's existence – a madcap mix of murder mystery and ethical inquiry ensues.
The Swiftian literalisation of extreme philosophical positions as gymnastic contortions is a satisfying joke, and the script bounces effortlessly between theology and freewheeling farce as Stoppard explores first principles and then concepts of good and evil with customary wit and élan.
However, the play lacks the richness and consistency of his later works, such as 'Arcadia' (which also prominently features a tortoise). Its parade of ideas is dazzling, and often huge fun, but it gets carried away with itself: self-indulgent even before Tarzan turns up.
The energetic cast handles the comedy well, playing it straight to bring out the everyday absurdity of Stoppard's crazy-mirror world. But the production's failure to get under George's skin means that 'Jumpers' doesn't make as much impact as it could.
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The play actually was quite good. Emily Shaw keeping the energy going, showing some variaition in emotion. Unfortunately the main actor Toby Eddington as George, stumbled through the show, referring to his script too often, disguised as his notes, and delivering in a very monotone dull voice and so quiet at times we could hardly hear him. It killed it for me and we left after the interval.
Very funny, some excellent performances from the cast, in particular Emily Shaw as Dotty and Mark White as Bones. Clever set design by Christopher Hone. I highly recommend this production.