Review – Jumpy – Royal Court

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Although there are only three more days (and four more performances) left for Jumpy at the Royal Court, I would be ashamed to not write up this truly excellent show.

I was a bit disturbed by hearing the play was about “mother daughter relationships” and “turning fifty.” This sounds to me like an excuse for a bunch of self-indulgent navel gazing followed by a treacely group hug. But it was much more about the relationships between the people in the play and the fact that as the people keep changing, the relationships have to change, too. The fact that nothing stays the same seems to be what’s making Hilary (Tamsin Grieg) stress out – it’s bad enough that her skin is sagging, but to have to deal with her nightmarish daughter Tilly (Bel Powley) and then possibly losing her job – it’s no wonder she’s feeling anxious. But her one consolation – her sexless, though not loveless marriage to Mark (Ewan Stewart) – turns out to not be as immutable as she hoped.

This seems like a recipe for a depressing play, and it could have been, but instead, it’s absolutely hilarious. Some of that is due to Hillary’s friend Frances (Doon Mackichan), who in one ten minute scene set a new standard for inappropriate behavior during a play (or, in this case, during a family beach vacation) and burned my eyeballs with the horror of it all. Frances totally adds pizazz to Hilary’s life and keeps her from falling too far down the rabbit hole of self-absorbtion – everyone could use a friend like her. But a lot of laughter is from Hilary’s attempts and failures to navigate the swiftly shifting terms of her relationship with Tilly – it’s clear underneath she loves her, but Tilly is so out of control it seems impossible for Hillary to do anything to keep Tilly’s life from turning into a much bigger wreck than her own. And yet, in a realistic, sympathetic, and almost hopelessy comic way, Hillary keeps trying.

If there’s one lesson to take home from this play, it’s that life keeps on changing no matter how little you want it to, and the best thing you can do is keep on dancing and make an effort to spend time with the people you love (no matter how little they seem to love you, especially if they’re teenagers). It was realistic, and, to my relief, not in the least sentimental. Best of all, it had me crying with laughter, not just because of the situations but because the way the characters talked about what was going on was just so damned funny. Good on you, April De Angelis, for a great play firmly rooted in the here and now that set itself right up for best play and production of 2011. For some of us, who’ve found that life is maybe providing more changes and challenges than we can really handle, it’s the joy of a play like this, and the feeling it gives us that we’re really not alone, that gives us reason and enthusiasm to keep on moving forward past the gravy years and into the great unknown.

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