The Royal Court has yet another one of it’s shows opening in the West End – this time it is the turn of April De Angelis’s smash hit Jumpy. I was lucky enough to attend it’s Opening Night at the Duke of York’s Theatre, where I saw stars like Olivia Williams, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Richard O’Brien turn up to support this wonderful play. The rest of the audience read as a veritable who’s who of the theatrical world, including some of the boys from The Royal Court’s Posh, and up-and-coming actors like Lauren O’Neil and Elizabeth Croft.
Firstly. I loved it. It is without a doubt the funniest new play I have seen in ages, but it also has a tremendous amount of heart.
It will cause parents in the audience to gasp with recognition, with a painfully accurate portrayal of a modern family. Rather refreshingly, Jumpy focuses on a middle-aged mum. Hilary (Tamsin Greig); who at 50 years old, is struggling with her lot in life. Once a bra burning Greenham Common protester, Hilary now works on a local reading support project that is falling apart thanks to the government cuts, and finds little fulfillment in her home life. Her marriage has lost it’s spark, and her stroppy sexually active 15 year old daughter Tilly (Bel Powley) is a constant source of anxiety, causing her to reach for that blessed glass of white wine to get through it all.
Hilary (Tamsin Greig) and Mark (Ewan Stewart)
Hialry (Tamsin Greig) and Frances (Doon MacKichan) on girls night in!
Tamsin Greig as Hilary, at the seaside
Hialry (Tamsin Greig) and Tilly (Bel Powley) in a mother/daughter row
The script is witty, and scenes move from humour to hard emotional truth with ease, partly thanks to De Angelis’s fabulous script, but also thanks to the cast. Tamsin Greig is just perfect. She holds this play together with ease, and is lovely to spend an hour or two with. Hitting all of her ‘laughs’, the heart of Greig’s performance is that of desperation – a woman mourning the loss of her self. Loss of her youth, love, motherhood, and her, dare I say it, feminist principles, “Feminism died out with bus conductors…”.
This distant mother/daughter relationship that is at the centre of the play is best shown in the scene where Hilary attempts to cross the divide by sharing stories about the excitement of Greenham Common days when she was young – hoping to inspire her text obsessed daughter to care about something beyond herself. Bel Powley plays said daughter Tilly with an over-exaggerated petulance, that thanks to TV characters like Kevin, have sadly become based in reality, and thus she gives a strangely believable performance. Tilly’s pregnant friend Lyndsey is played with much more subtlety by Seline Hizli, and the two of them together represent this generation of Tweeting,Topshop wearing, TOWIE watching teenagers with a shocking accuracy. On the whole, the cast were fantastic; Doon Mackichan is particularly wonderful as the sexually shameless, aging actress Frances. Mackichan steals the show with a fabulous burlesque dance that, quite rightly, earned her a huge round of applause.
Nina Raine’s production is sharp and sentimental in equal measure – the issues are the sorts of things that will strike a cord in everyone’s lives, whoever you may be. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
Tickets are available here ! Closing November 3rd 2012.