Seeing a new play in the West End is always a thrill, but seeing a play in its North East premiere in a venue as intimate as Newcastle’s People’s Theatre is just as, if not more, exciting.
Hilary (Rye Mattick) is struggling with not only a mundane existence and a slight dependence on a bottle of Chablis nightly, but with the very real loss of her daughter, Tilly (Amy Herdman) who, approaching 16 years old, has decided it’s time to become a woman. The age-old power struggle between mother and daughter ensues and issues as far between as teenage pregnancy and the menopause are touched upon in Jumrpy, by April De Angelis.
It is the one of the dilemmas that has been met by marriages throughout history: stay in a relationship, going through the motions for the sake of the children and the fear you’re too old to meet anyone else, or cave to the attraction of a handsome stranger and let the marriage crumble. Maybe it’s time to let it crumble? Maybe the grass really is greener?
The play raises these questions and more and is a frank look at family life and growing older.
As someone hurtling past their mid-20s, I’m in the unique (terrifying) position of remembering the angst-ridden teenage years drawing battle lines against one’s parents at any given opportunity, as well as being fearful of what my impending 30s, 40s and beyond will bring – or rather what they may fail to. Hilary is constantly dealing with loss: the loss of her youth, her sense of radical fun, and the loss of her daughter, then husband. The writing although dryly funny in parts never shies away from being sad. It is this that makes the play work.
Hilary is in a sort of mourning for her old life; as a young woman, she was a faux-radical, protesting at Greenham Common and her sometimes juvenile life choices in the play are a role reversal ‘acting out’. Subjects like this are rarely chosen as fodder for a hit play, so Jumpy should be applauded for that from the get go.
Mattick (above) is warm and engaging as the woman-on-the-edge character at the centre of the story. Believable as the neurotic mother, the disheartened wife and the, quite frankly, sexy object of affection, she holds both the play together, and the audience’s gaze.
Mark Burden (above with Mattick) and Colin Jeffrey are also both highlights in their respective roles as Hilary’s laid-back husband Mark and the new man in her life, hunky actor Roland. Herdman as Tilly and Rhiannon Wilson, who plays pal Lyndsey, have the hormonal teen act down a tee and are a reliable source for laughs.
My favourite performance came from Melanie Dagg (above). She is high camp as Frances, Hilary’s extroverted friend. Sexually-charged and fully aware she is fabulous at 50, Dagg is a scene-stealer. Her star turn involves a burlesque routine, a horny teenager and a premature explosion – I’ll leave it at that.
Director Kevin Gibson’s rapidly changing scenes give the audience time to ponder each of life’s great mysteries and the simplistic set design by Stuart Taylor is there to give a very ordinary back drop to an extraordinary set of circumstances.
Jumpy is a great piece. A slow-burner, yes, and one with a second act which comically trounces it’s first, but a wonderful play. Any play that isn’t scared of using the f-word (feminism) as a gimmick is one worth a look, in my eyes. Expect to leave asking yourself a lot more than ‘where do I know her face from?’ This production will have you pondering life’s questions long after you leave the theatre
Jumpy runs until Saturday June 18. Click here for tickets