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Review: Jumpy

Posted on 29 August 2012 by Amelia Forsbrook

Fuelled by perpetual waves of exasperation, likable comic actor Tamsin Greig (Black BooksGreen Wing) sets the mumsiness to full throttle in this exploration of middle-aged anxiety and middle-class failing.

Greig’s Hilary may have put her days of active protest behind her as she stepped away from Greenham Common, but her participation in communal campaigns left its mark and her feminist spirit still lives on as she angrily confronts her 50s. Unfortunately, while the statement protests of the 80s gave a certain cohesion to gender-related arguments, the third wave of feminism has fragmented the cause, recognising the diversity of women and enabling them to disagree. Pushed back into the personal sphere, Hilary is left to tackle a number of more ambiguous feminist issues, with nothing but her own inarticulate moral code to guide her.

With lipstick feminism leaving an ugly smear across the women’s rights movement, and in the absence of a united battle, April de Angelis turns to the family unit throughout this light-hearted narrative of modern-day feminism. Anxious about her own unemployability and weakened sexual appeal, Hilary focuses her feminist eye on her teenaged daughter. Sixteen years old and dressed in a skin-tight dress and stilettos, Tilly becomes the model of the modern woman, and through her the production gently explores how female identity is built on male desire. Differences between the genders are then further interrogated through a conversation with the parents of Tilly’s boyfriend, an interaction that is brilliantly flavoured with a sharp dose of maternal spite, direct from Amanda Root.

Bel Powley is excellent as Tilly, never letting her mother feel comfortable as she swings from thoughtless defiance to trusting vulnerability. At times though, Tilly seems more like a hologram of a mother’s anxiety, than a woman in her own right. She dresses to seduce and swears to shock. Abandoning the well spoken accents of her parents in favour of slang and lazy pronunciation, the character of Tilly simplifies the issues that modern-day feminists are attempting to bring to light. The sexualisation of young women is positioned as a threat to high GCSE results and, in discussions surrounding a young woman who channels a touch of the Pollard, little is said about the subtlety of ingrained gendered expectations.

The real intelligence behind Jumpy becomes apparent when April de Angelis urges us to focus on Hilary, a woman who is absorbed in her own gendered problems yet oblivious to the parallels between her own and her daughter’s situation. Throughout, the crisp script attacks a society where a 50 year old woman is afraid to reveal a flesh-coloured swimsuit, while her best friend Frances, played with a catty and shameless flair by the inspirational and bold Doon Mackichan, feels determined to try out her new burlesque routine. Here, Angelis has presented the sort of debilitating moral cloudiness that naturally results in our fierce feminist donning the costume of a pre-liberation woman in an attempt to ironically capture her own sexuality. Angelis tells us that modern feminism is a complicated and paradoxical thing: as Tamsin Greig gyrates on a West End stage wearing a maid’s uniform and fishnets, this is crystal clear.

Jumpy is playing at Duke of York’s Theatre until 3rd November. For more information and tickets, see the Royal Court Theatre. Photo by Robert Workman.

Amelia Forsbrook

Formerly one of the Wales Arts International critics, Amelia moved to London in early 2012 with two big aims: to continue working as an arts writer, and to discover whether it's ever possible to pull off both telephones and flying in theatre. With particular interests in regional arts, South Asian performance and twentieth century European theatre, Amelia writes for a number of other publications, as well as being an Off West End Assessor.

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Review: Jumpy

Posted on 26 October 2011 by Jack Thomas

The Royal Court has recently welcomed its production of Jerusalem back to the West End after continual successes wherever it is homed, but how nice to see that The Royal Court has another winner on its hands.

Jumpy, written by April De Angelis, is a humorous play of two acts following the life of a 50-something lady called Hilary (Tamsin Greig) as she reaches breaking point with an unruly sixteen year old daughter and a marriage which is a little stale. Her work situation is more than unstable as recent cuts suggest her job is on the line, and her habit of the odd glass of wine seems the perfect solution to a stressful day and a stressful home.

The key to this play is that it is real, it is a wonderfully observed slice of real life, which in turn makes some of the simplest remarks very amusing. Tamsin Greig, as the mother struggling to keep the family unit going, enters the stage having had a day which resulted in her having a panic attack on the train and quickly establishing that a mid-life crisis is imminent. Greig plays the role with a genuine empathy along with her fantastic comic wit and perfect delivery – you warm very quickly to this character who has next to no time off stage. Paired with Ewan Stewart, as husband Mark, the pair present a glimpse of what is happening in households across the country.

The guilty pleasure of the piece, and also an opportunity to spice up the storyline a little, comes from the delight that is Doon Mackichan, taking on the role of Hilary’s best friend; she deals with life at 50 in a very different way to her friend. Single and without children, with a commitment to keep herself in shape, she very much continues to surprise… including a hilarious burlesque routine for a full five minutes of stage time that only Mackichan could commit to without corpsing on stage. The moment she marched on to the stage and joined Greig you can quickly appreciate that the pair will have you in stitches.

This fine cast of established actors are supported by a wonderful group of young talent. Bel Powley plays a vile caricature of a parent’s worst nightmare in a performance that undoubtedly goes along the biggest journey in the piece. Michael Marcus as the young student and James Musgrave as the strikingly handsome boyfriend all add to the reality of a piece we can all relate to in some way.

Jumpy, a title which is explained in the last few moments is a wonderful piece of real theatre. Taking you on a journey through a household’s period in time, you cannot help but laugh out loud as you relate to the people who play out before you. Set against a spectacular design by Lizzie Clachan, Jumpy is a wonderful piece that provides you with two and a half hours of entertainment.

Jumpy is playing at the Royal Court Theatre until 19th November. For more information and tickets see the Royal Court Theatre website. Don’t forget that all tickets on Mondays are £10.

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