The hit comedy of mid-life crisis, teenage rebellion and a mother-daughter relationship in meltdown …
Once an active feminist, Hilary now finds herself in her fifties and undergoing a mid-life crisis as she seems to spend all her emotional energy trying to get her teenage daughter to focus on her studies and take responsibility for her actions. Tilly’s discovery of sexuality forces Hilary to confront her own hang ups.
A play which reflects the problems and see-sawing emotions of a group of adults and their teenage offspring. It is both bittersweet and laugh out loud. The adults behave as outrageously as the teenagers and it should strike a chord with many in the audience!
“It’s funny, deliciously rude and at times piercingly moving ... and will make any parent with a teenager in the family laugh with recognition, wince with horror and, if you are as soft as I am, cry a little too ... But though the laughs keep coming, the play movingly captures the inequality of love between parents and their children, and there is no mistaking the emotional truth of the writing.” Charles Spencer, The Telegraph
“How often do you get a West End play that's intelligent, funny and puts contemporary mid-life women centre stage?” Lyn Gardner , The Guardian.
“April De Angelis’s West End hit comedy of mid-life crisis, teenage rebellion and a mother-daughter relationship in meltdown … It’s a play that is overtly, vitally feminist, not because it makes bold claims to be so, but simply because these women are focused on and allowed to speak and develop at the heart of the play.” David Pollock, The Independent
Review by Nick Le Mesurier
Hilary (Emma Withers) is a harassed woman. Her job is going down the pan. Her husband Mark’s (Matt Sweatman) business is not doing well, and to top it all she has a daughter, Tilly (Kelly Davison) who ranks as the teenager from hell. Attitude just pours out of her. And though somehow Tilly seems to do all right at school, what really seems to interest her - at least as far as her mother can see - is sex.
As Tilly turns 16 she sets out to discover what it means to be a woman, though she does it in a very different way from Hilary at that age. Hilary’s passage to adulthood was marked by causes: Greenham Common, Women’s Liberation. And sex. For Tilly and her generation, causes are boring. For her, it’s all about image. And yet, for all her attitude she still is a child, at least in some ways.
Alongside all this the adults watch and worry and try to deal with their own problems. Hilary is at the centre of this play, struggling with anxiety for her daughter’s welfare while trying to find an identity for herself as a menopausal woman in a failing marriage. She does, with the not altogether helpful assistance of Frances (Deb Relton-Elves), who hilariously finds her own mature sexual identity in burlesque, and with Cam (Joe Caper) a university student much older and wiser and sexier than his years. And also with Roland (Jon Elves), father of Josh (James Smith), Lyndsey (Emma Whewell), a mother at fifteen, and Bea (Christine Evans), Roland’s bitter, manipulative wife.
If this sounds a bit grim, it isn’t. It is very, very funny. The wit is that of truthfulness; the laughter that of recognition. The acting and direction are superb. Emma Withers is on stage for the whole show, and her ability to switch emotions, often while changing her clothes in dozens of on-stage costume changes, is simply astounding. One really feels for her predicament and for her courage and her love. Kelly Davison as Tilly piles on the pressure relentlessly, testing her mother at every stage. She is clever, arrogant, obnoxious, funny and tragic all at once. These two together develop a rapport that is one of the most powerful and complex I’ve seen on the Criterion stage, and that’s saying something. But it only works because the whole cast is on form.
Jumpy is a wickedly sharp and funny homage to the painful process of growing up, which never ends. I won’t tell you the meaning behind the title: go and see the play and find out for yourself.
Review by Chris Arnot
A kitchen-sink dominates the set for many a scene. But Jumpy is no grim ‘kitchen-sink’ drama from the mid-20thcentury. It’s more of a mid-life, middle-class comedy set in the post-feminist 21stcentury. We’re down south rather than ‘oop’ north and that sink harbours a fridge with a seemingly bottomless supply of white wine.
Hillary glugs it at regular intervals as she comes to terms with two inescapable pressures. One is turning 50. The other is having a daughter of 15 going on 23 with a seemingly God-given right to what she likes when she likes with whomever she likes. And God help anyone who tries to stand in her way. Particularly her Mum.
Tilly the teenager is played by Kelly Davison, making her first appearance at the Criterion, and berating her mother with some spectacular strops.
No wonder Hillary is struggling to cope. She’s a feminist of the old school with fond memories of standing shoulder to shoulder with other women at the Greenham Common air base in 1982. Emma Withers is utterly convincing in the role, trying to do the right thing even while slightly slurred by white wine and tempted by the men who intrude on her long-term marriage to Mark, best described as decent but dull.
The passage of time, from Tilly’s turbulent mid-teens to her departure for university, is marked by constant on-stage costume changes by Hillary. Not into anything too racy, you understand. That’s not her style.
Her friend Frances has no such qualms. She’s of a similar age and desperate to stay forever young. Deb Relton-Elves, tightly sweatered and pointedly booted in her first appearance, captures that desperation deliciously. Her vampish antics backfire, however, when it comes to seducing men. The more dowdily dressed Hillary has more luck in that department, adding guilt to the pressures of dealing with a daughter with no apparent morals whatsoever.
Under Nicole Firth’s direction a strong supporting cast, including Jon Elves, Matt Sweatman and a splendidly acerbic Christine Evans, make the most of the jokes in Jumpy. But behind the comic moments are some telling comments on the way we live now and the ever-widening gap between the generations.
April De Angelis wrote the play at the end of the Naughties when she was turning 50, and it was first performed at the Royal Court in Sloane Square, SW1, in 2011. I suspect she would have been pleasantly surprised should she ever have ventured to CV5 in the next City of Culture to see her play performed by a so-called “amateur” cast in a theatre that throws everything but the kitchen sink into its productions.