Jumpy

You get a strong sense of what Jumpy is going to be like from Jean Chan’s impressive set—two jumbled piles of household goods, surrounded by an off-kilter frame of plain wall. Tim Mascall’s lighting is also bold, colourful and dipping sufficiently to indicate scene changes while cast members enter and leave among the shadows. Nor does director Cora Bissett forget about our ears: with a soundtrack ranging from Janis Joplin and the B-52s to Neil Young and Gloria Gaynor, you can listen to the Jumpy playlist afterwards on Spotify. It’s big, bold and wonderfully self-aware. And trying just that little bit too hard.

It’s big, bold and wonderfully self-aware.

Jumpy is advertised as a comedy, and it’s certainly full of laughs, but all too many are resolutely rooted in sitcom cliché. Yes, April De Angelis must be praised for putting the fractious relationship between a mother and daughter—which you could easily imagine being at best a subplot in the likes of male-focused My Family—bang in the centre, but she employs too many aspects of the default sitcom which just feel unnatural; not least the “amusing” friend whose attempts at burlesque come with a demeaning desperation that’s hardly worth the one genuinely heartfelt line it inspires. Plus, surely in 2016, we can do better than mock the women of the Greenham Common protest camp for looking a tad masculine?

Yes, Jumpy is a sharply directed, well performed piece; if Richard Conlon as divorcee Roland and Gail Watson as “best friend” Frances are occasionally a too big to be entirely believable, there are always the solid foundations provided by Pauline Knowles nuanced, unaffected performance as the stressed-out mother Hilary—reaching 50 and wondering what the hell happened to her hopes and dreams—and the understated support provided by Stephen McCole as her “chillaxed” husband Mark. The younger characters in the story are also served well; Molly Vevers gives real heart and depth to what could all too easily have been just another cliched angry teenager Lilly, while Keiran Gallagher (as monosyllabic goth boyfriend Josh) and Cameron Crighton (as the, relatively speaking, “maturer” Cam) hold the stage well.

The young men aren’t really given that much to do, admittedly, but that’s because the genuine heart of the story is the troubled relationship between a mother inherently reluctant to let go of their child and the child increasingly desperate to be accepted as the young adult they’re in the process of becoming. It’s a story as old as time (or at least the 20th century), but that doesn’t automatically mean De Angelis is saying something profound by focusing on it. The script at times feels unfocused and tonally adrift, with only the director and her good ensemble cast holding things together. The downside is that, heartfelt laughs notwithstanding, this production can’t help but feels as if it’s just trying a bit too hard to be entirely successful.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

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Performances

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The Blurb

“You’re having some kind of crisis.”

“It’s called being fifty. You must be having it too.”

A deliciously irreverent hit West End comedy of mid-life crisis, teenage rebellion and a mother-daughter relationship in meltdown. Hilary is 50, a strong intelligent woman who once protested at Greenham Common. Then she felt she could change the world, now, she can’t even change her daughters mind about wearing that skirt. Hilary’s job is on the line, her marriage is on life support, her best friend won’t grow up and her teenage daughter has gone off the rails…

If life begins at fifty, it’s off to a shaky start. April De Angelis’ frank and funny family drama charts the perils of growing up and growing old with refreshing candour in this instantly relatable look at mother-daughter relationships for anyone who has ever been tempted to open the wine before unpacking the shopping.

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