Maybe I expected too much from April de Angelis’s new comedy, about the sexual crises of a 50-year-old woman and her 15-year-old daughter.
It is a fun night out, that’s comfortable enough for the parents and rude enough for the kids (who knew that we have ‘vagina neck’ as well as the menopause to look forward to?). Tamsin Greig is sharp, nervy and excellent as Hilary, struggling to make her principles heard in a world where her Reading Support Unit is no longer supported by the government, her husband refuses to back her up in disciplining their jailbait daughter, and her best friend’s scheme for empowering her involves a French maid’s outfit and posh stripping.
And Bel Powley is poutingly perfect as Tilly, Hilary’s daughter from hell – bringing something like life to a chippy collage of texting, ignoring, pelmet-skirted, contraceptive-free bad-teen clichés.
But ‘Jumpy’ wasn’t quite the subtle, edgy, brilliant feminist play that I wanted it to be – the kind that you live in reasonable hope of at the Royal Court, whose remit is provocation, not comfortable conservatism masquerading in a mini skirt.
Nina Raine’s cleanly directed, punchy production makes the most of the situation comedy. But I wanted more: more scenes like the touchingly funny and accurate one where Hilary and her husband Mark are in bed, listening to their
now 16-year-old daughter have sex and wondering if they want to themselves.
As Hilary’s life slides out of view, eclipsed by her erotic dilemmas (dump the husband? Shag Tilly’s boyfriend’s father? Shag Tilly’s boyfriend?) the tension between her ’70s feminist principles and Tilly’s Jordan-inspired value system droops, and this becomes an amusing Walthamstow episode of ‘Sex in the City’, where women’s choices are sexual choices and the laughter sounds increasingly conservative.
Maybe it’s po-faced to complain, but when the audience cracked up at Hilary’s Kim Cattrall-inspired friend Frances’s erotic dance routine (superbly performed by Doon Mackichan), it made me feel sad, because I thought that they were simply laughing at her for being middle-aged and desperate.
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I have to disagree with the reviewer below. I read this review before I went to see Jumpy tonight and thank God I'd booked my ticket already, otherwise I might have been put off and not seen the play. I thought April De Angelis's play was funny, thought provoking and incredibly moving at times. Tamsin Grieg gave a wonderful performance supported by a stellar cast including a scene stealing performance from Doon Mackichan. The subject matter could have been melodramatic but for the cracking one liners and the intelligent writing bringing truthfulness to the situation which took the play beyond any possible melodrama. There were groans of recognition from the obvious parents in the audience and I defy anyone whose gone through the horror of watching your child turn into a teenager not to identify with the main character - that's not to say the teenagers were written as characatures - not in the slightest. most of the comments I heard tonight were positive and I would recommend this play to men and women of all ages - even those from Welwyn Garden City!
I’ve only been to the Royal Court Theatre at Sloane Square twice. The first time was in August 2011 for The Village Bike. It was superb. Very funny, very well-acted, a super cast, a dynamic script, edgy, irreverent and humorously moving. It was modern theatre at its best. The second time was for Jumpy. What a contrast! Jumpy was middle-class English TV sitcom comedy at its worst. Labored, predictable and completely lacking any of the charm and freshness that was a feature of The Village Bike. Please Royal Court try to be consistent! I know that it must be very hard to fulfill your mission of introducing new playwrights who in some way bring a new dimension to theatre, but surely it is not that hard to reject something that would easily be accepted by a totally undemanding TV sitcom selection committee for whom the target audience definition is “easily pleased from Welwyn Garden City, out on the town once a month, otherwise happy with TV pap”. I really hope that The Village Bike was the rule and Jumpy the exception. If it is the other way around, I am very pessimistic about the future of British theatre.