Getting Jumpy

Mimi ON Sep 03, 2012 AT 9:05 am

Tamsin Greig and Bel Powley

New plays in the West End are relatively rare. They have to share stage space with guaranteed money spinners (mostly musicals) so they have to be good. Really good. And Jumpy by April de Angelis is really good.

First performed last year at The Royal Court, this play about a 50 year old wife and mother has transferred into the spotlight of The Duke of York’s Theatre, Covent Garden. But you really don’t have to be a 50 year old woman to enjoy this spirited and very funny production – though if you are, it will ring painfully true.

Tamsin Greig (Green Wing and Episodes) plays beleaguered Hilary, mother of appalling but pretty accurate teenage daughter Tilly and wife of a shop-owning husband played by Ewan Stewart. She camped at Greenham Common in her student days but now wages war against not being taken seriously by her family (or worse being ignored completely), a marriage that lacks passion on any level and a loss of youth (and with it that feeling of relevance).

It’s a mid-life crisis comedy but that doesn’t mean it’s lazy or cliched – and the comedy stretches from the witty put-down to the frankly bizarre, in the form of a ‘sexy’ dance performed by her best friend played brilliantly by Doon Mackichan to the horror of the assembled cast. All worst nightmares are realised. A teenage pregnancy and the ensuing confrontation with the matriarchal mother of the boy whose baby it is, brings things down to earth, but never detracts from the fact that this is a very funny, at times laugh-out-loud comedy of middle-class angst, age and parenthood.

The staging is also worth a mention. Minimalist but clever, the actors are given space to own the stage but have enough to work with to set the scene. Hilary’s past and experience are reinforced by the choice of soundtrack which pulls in an inspired selection of well-known tunes from the likes of Adam and the Ants, The Clash and Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

Tamsin Greig is quite superb throughout. This part could easily tip into the over-the-top, but it never does. She plays it straight but delivers the comedy straight at you with a performance master-class. Her emotional state goes from exhaustion, both physical and emotional, to funny and sharp. Her emotions are mirrored by the audience, we laughed, smiled and at times shed a tear without feeling we’d been manipulated. Hilary’s daughter, played by Bel Powley, is also the perfect foil demonstrating teenage strop with fearful vulnerability.

You never know until the very end how it will all work out, but because of the empathy brought to the characters by this talented cast, you hope it all works out okay. Pay it a visit to find out the ending for yourselves, you won’t be disappointed.

Jumpy, The Duke of York’s Theatre, St. Martin’s Lane, London WC2N 4BG. 16th August – 3rd November 2012. Tickets from £15 – £75.



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