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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
JUMPY
at the Royal Court, Downstairs

MIDLIFE CRISIS
By CLIVE HIRSCHHORN

  Tamsin Greig and Bel Powley/ Ph: Robert Workman

April De Angelis doesn’t have anything revelatory to say in her new play Jumpy. Instead, she offers an entertaining, often laugh-out-loud retread of that familiar dramatic chestnut: a 50-year-old woman’s midlife crisis. But while you’ve seen and heard it all before, I doubt as beguilingly done as this.
 
The “victim” is a woman called Hilary (Tamsen Greig), the foundations of whose middle-class world are in tectonic mode. Her passionless marriage to her shopkeeper husband (Ewan Stewart) is on auto-pilot, she’s lost her job as part of a support group, she gets panic attacks on the subway, and, to calm her frayed nerves, she drinks a bit too much.
 
On top of all this she has to contend with her overbearingly stroppy and characteristically rebellious 15-year-old daughter Tilly (Bel Powley), who, as Hilary puts it, “can’t keep her f****** knickers on.”
 
Over a period of about a couple of months Tilly has a pregnancy scare, courtesy of a rather gormless 16-year-old called Josh (James Musgrave), followed by another sexual relationship with Cam (Michael Marcus), a 20-year-old psychology student who likes older women and successfully seduces a compliant Hilary, recently separated from Mark.
 
And there’s more. Hilary is also bedding Roland (Richard Lintern), Josh’s personable actor father recently divorced from his aggressive wife Bea (Sarah Woodward).
 
Completing the cast are Seline Hizli as an unmarried teenage mum and, in the flashiest role of all, Doon Mackichan as Frances, a would-be burlesque dancer whose deliciously cringe-inducing strip routine is the undoubted comic highlight of the evening.
 
But despite the many laughs offered up in act one, Jumpy doesn’t thrive on just its jokes. It takes its central theme – the familial pitfalls and frustrations many women over 50 face – very seriously indeed.
 
Though De Angelis’ observations and the cadences and rhythms of her dialogue are spot-on, a scene involving a loaded gun misfires (no pun intended), and while Hilary and Mark are clearly middle-class, their promiscuous daughter Tilly is a typical working-class scrubber both in appearance and in the way she sounds.
 
All the performances under Nina Raine’s confident direction are excellent, though binding it all together is Greig, who is in every one of the play’s 18 scenes and whose determination, as Hilary, to make sense out of the chaos, confusion, uncertainty and frustration wrought by her mid-life crisis is, in the end, very moving indeed.
 
Lizzie Clachan’s sparingly furnished, somewhat bleak white set is the perfect metaphor for the temporary (one hopes) bleakness of Hilary’s current existence.
 
A quick West End transfer wouldn’t surprise me at all.

 


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