Three Jumpers

The tweeting of the birds portends a beautiful day, but the view from the bridge is spoiled by an ominous thick mist. In the lives of three men contemplating suicide it is the gloom that has the upper hand.

At times the humour has its darker moments but it doesn’t have the subtlety or dryness to make it into an Orton-esque work of black comedy

Duncan Riches, Jack Hesketh and Stephen Smith successfully create three contrasting characters. They are different in many ways, making the point that there is no one type of person who might commit suicide: the issue confronts people in all social classes and in all walks of life. Lauren Waine plays a woman who is involved in each man’s life in separate sets of circumstances. Creating her as the unifying force of the plot gives dramatic cohesion, even if it is has an air of improbability and makes her slightly tokenistic.

The most intriguing character however, named in the cast list asBroomsticks, is played by Amy Housley. She shuffles around sweeping the bridge, firmly rooted in the everyday world of work to which her fluorescent jacket bears witness. Her witty observations, timing and intonation provide mature humour. There is also an air of mystique about her, which, rather like Priestley’s Inspector, suggests she might not be all that she seems.

The bridge is cleverly constructed using two wide metal barriers. These are parted in order to open up the stage for scenes that are not depicting one or more of the men threatening to jump. Each man has the chance to relate his plight, and flashback scenes fill in some of the details. Lighting is sympathetically used to delineate the vignettes and spotlight individuals.

Creators Lauren Waine and Jonah York, who also directed, describe this play as a comedy, yet it seems to be lodged in a no-man’s land of genres. There are some funny moments but they don’t generate riotous laughter. At times the humour has its darker moments but it doesn’t have the subtlety or dryness to make it into an Orton-esque work of black comedy. There also seems to be a mismatch between the enormity of what the men want to do and the circumstances that are portrayed. This is no place to discuss the complexities of what drives men to suicide, but it seemed that their present difficulties could be overcome and resolved by other means, unless these events are catalysts that bring unexplored issues of mental health into the open. The concluding informative broadcast sounded like oddly out of place afterthought within the overall style of the play.

Three Jumpers tackles a serious issue that has only recently started to receive the attention it deserves. Portraying it on stage raises a host of difficulties. This innovative work suggests a way in which it can be brought to the fore and is worth seeing as one more attempt to highlight the subject through drama.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

‘You do seem pretty flippant about dying.’ ‘Probably why I’ll live longer.’ Three men, one bridge, a matter of life or death and a strong array of knitwear. Pullover to see this dark comedy knitted together with humour and hope. Joined by a mysterious worker, the three jumpers all unknowingly share a connection – one that could determine their fate forever. A new play focusing on a conversation that is often silenced when it should be voiced. After all, life's a bridge and then you die!