Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Jumpy at The Duke of York's
Another day, another dysfunctional middle-class family. This time at the Duke of York’s Theatre with Jumpy, a wonderfully funny, rude and at times moving new play by April de Angelis, which has transferred from The Royal Court.
Hilary, beautifully portrayed by the magnificent Tamsin Greig, is a mother with a problem, a problem all too recognisable to any parent who has, or has had a teenager in the family. The teenager in this instance is stroppy, 15 year old Tilly (an excellent Bel Powley) who leaves the house looking twice her age and is found to be sleeping with her equally young boyfriend. As a supposed liberal, fifty year old middle class London mother who once protested at Greenham Common, Hilary is at a loss as to how to react to a daughter who treats her with undisguised contempt. She endures panic attacks on the tube, especially as she has the added worry that her job might be on the way out, so the obligatory glass or three of wine is essential to her well being whenever she arrives home. There is no succour to be had from a passionate husband either, as sexual antics with him have long been replaced by her reading him excerpts from Great Expectations when they retire to the marital bed. The marriage eventually grinds to a halt and she is subsequently hit on by her daughter’s boyfriend’s father (a self regarding actor very well played by Richard Lintern). She doesn’t know whether to be fascinated, flattered or frightened. In fact the whole play hinges on how Hilary should behave to whatever situation comes her way, which is why Greig is so perfect in the role. She manages to convey exasperation, despair and the all encompassing maternal love, whilst treating us to comedic touches and several side splittingly funny moments. Doon Mackichan as her best friend Frances also delivers on the comedy front. Her decision to resuscitate a flagging theatrical career by showcasing a new burlesque routine is excruciatingly embarrassing and hilarious, as is her futile attempt to persuade Hilary to mirror her sexual aggressiveness.
The writing is so very true to life and I defy any modern parent not to recognise the moment when they try to have a serious conversation with their offspring and the recipient of their words of wisdom is far more interested in studying their mobile phones. The emotional truth is there for all to see and I love the way April de Angelis keeps you guessing as to the play’s outcome.
Nina Raine’s direction is tight and expertly merges the play’s comedy and deeper feeling. Jumpy is yet another Royal Court success story.