Jumpy by April de Angelis – Up Front Productions – Sir John Mills Theatre till Saturday
Jumpy premiered at the Royal Court in London in 2011 staring Tamsin Grieg in the title role and transferred to the West End after that. It’s a play that for all its modern pretentions actually follows a well trodden path looking at the problems of being a middle aged parent, the clash between the generations, mid life crisis and the staleness of long term marriage. Hence the play’s success or failure falls to the actors who must inhabit the characters with their own brand of humour and flesh them out into more than just stereotypes.
Hilary is turning 50, an ex Greenham Common protestor who still believes (sort of) in feminism but has long since failed to put it in to practice. Married to Mark for far too long – they rub along in a comfortable but sterile marriage. They have one daughter, Tilly, who at 15 is going through the typical teenage tantrums of all girls of her age – but when they discover that she has started sleeping with her boyfriend Josh (Max Betts –Davies) – they have to decide if they want to be liberal or bring in some discipline.
The play works best when concentrating on the scenes within the nuclear family. Jayne Lindill plays Hilary with plenty of world weariness, and copes with the multiple scene and costume changes well – Phil Cory is husband Mark – facing all the daughters’ histrionics and the crumbling of his marriage with equal stoicism. Ellie Netzel is excellent as Tilly – typically stroppy, moody, inappropriate, surgically hooked to her phone and eternally embarrassed by her parents. She was well matched by April Rand with a nicely judged performance as her friend Lyndsey.
The play loses its way a bit when introducing other characters and subplots – some of which seemed to be slightly unbelievable. Hilary’s friend Frances (Lesley Rawlinson ) is Doreen from Birds of a Feather – called on to be an over the top, man hungry extravert. Josh’s parents, Roland (Martin Leigh) and Bea ( a nice waspish performance from Stephanie Brown) are also going through a breakup which gives Roland a chance to pursue Hilary. She in turn has a fling with Tilly’s student boyfriend Cam (Ben Maytham).
There are some nice moments, a lot of the dialogue is funny and well observed and everybody on stage works hard. But weirdly for a company that was formed specifically so that friends could perform together, only one member of the original group was on stage and the lack of chemistry between the actors meant that although all the performances were competent the piece lacked heart.
The play also suffers from an interminable number of scene changes – and it would have been a relief to have had a change of music to fill the gaps. I think we all got a little tired of Florence and the Machine’s ‘Kiss with a Fist’ by the end of the show!
Director Helen Clarke has done a sterling job fitting it all into the Sir John Mills space and there is plenty of pace in each scene. If you have ever had teenagers – the mother/ daughter scenes will resonate with you, or if you have ever lain in bed wondering where your life went. It does have some strong language – and adult themes – so be warned if you are of a sensitive disposition.