Review – Jumpy, Royal Court

Monday 14 November 2011

Hard to believe, but even the Whingers were young once.

Then we took our eyes off the road and somehow time sneaked up from behind, overtaking recklessly, driving off the highway of life and leaving us temporarily stranded in the lay-by of middle age. Happily we are fully equipped with spare tyres to enable our journeys to continue.

Hilary (Tamsin Greig) is having a mid-life crisis. She’s 50 and suffering panic attacks; presumably the Jumpy of the title (another titular reference is revealed at the end). Her job’s in danger and her marriage to a relentlessly dull husband Mark (Ewan Stewart) has become little more than friendship, the aridness of her partnership only hydrated by frequent glasses of wine. Could this be the reason for the Whingers’ drinking too?

Her relationship with teenage daughter Tilly (Bel Powley) is at best fractious. Tilly is sleeping around. In the dark ages of our teenage years she’d have been called ‘a scrubber’- whatever happened to that term of abuse? She drinks too, dresses inappropriately (or appropriately if you’re a teen, we suppose), goes out clubbing and seems, well, rather common, especially given that her mother is the rather refined Greig. Her attitude is surly, attention seeking and thoroughly unloveable. Put her on X Factor!

She also has a tendency to overdo the screeching and screaming, in fact she’s so goddamn awful it’s no wonder her mother worries something terrible will happen to her when she goes out; there must be people queueing up to do for her. The Whingers would be first in line. But she’s probably safer out than in. Playwright April De Angelis presents a very strong argument for filicide.

To us it played as caricature. Are teenagers really this hideous? We have no idea. But if women are from Venus and men are from Mars then children must come from Uranus (which, as a small child, is where Phil thought they emerged from until he found out the equally shocking truth about the ‘front bottom’).

Greig is excellent but Jumpy sometimes shoehorn situations in for easy laughs. Her friend Frances (Doon Mackichan) performs a burlesque routine for very little reason. The Whingers sat there glumly while the audience guffawed with laughter. The scene where Greig is instructed in the art herself is much funnier though the French maid’s outfit she wears is a sitcom device too far. And why is a gun awkwardly introduced into an overwrought Act 2 scene?

There’s echoes of Mike Leigh’s Grief, shaded with Carla Lane’s Butterflies and when Tilly’s parents and her boyfriend Josh’s parents get together a whiff of God of CarnageRichard Lintern convinces as Josh’s father, an actor who believes himself unable to turn off his charm but Sarah Woodward as Josh’s mother is criminally underused.

We weren’t even certain Woodward was in Act 1. Jumpy entered our collective consciousness through various hearty recommendations and by the time we came to book was nearly sold out. This forced us to take restricted view seats in the upper reaches of the Royal Court. But we do not complain, you will not find the Whingers consulting the Trade Description Act. We can attest that the view from our seats was indeed admirably restricted.

Most of the audience seemed to be having a whale of a time and whilst Phil was amused by some of this and occasionally laughed out loud, Andrew declared himself “bored”. But even Phil, from his aerial perch, on viewing a sun lounger on stage again, found time to assess this new theatrical trend and formed a mental list of their recent appearances on stage (Much Ado About Nothing, Terrible Advice, Cool Hand Luke).

At 2 hours 40 minutes it’s overlong and though director Nina Raine squeezes some poignancy and hope from the resolve some of the comedy is horribly overdone; if this play were toast you’d need to scrape it furiously over the kitchen sink.

Ah well, comedy is subjective. We’ve actually met a handful of people who didn’t find One Man, Two Guvnors remotely funny. Imagine that.


7 Responses to “Review – Jumpy, Royal Court”

  1. Jean Says:

    To be very honest – and what less should a west end whinger be expected to be – I loved the first half and sort of enjoyed the second. Being a woman of a certain age (annoying phrase) and having had a teenage daughter I could identify with Hilary (brilliantly and sympathetically played) but the query abortion stuff was engineered and Cam was unattractive and if I dare say poorly acted.
    Would agree with he glass3s!

  2. Ged Says:

    We liked this more than the Whingers and Jean seem to have done. Agree with the points about plot devices, but show us a comedy that doesn’t creak a little under such scrutiny.

    This was very well acted, very well directed and an enjoyable evening at the theatre.

    Good comedy makes us think a bit as well as enjoy a laugh – Jumpy achieved both for me and Daisy. We’d give this one four rather than three.

  3. pb Says:

    Just be thankful you didn’t go and see the turd that was Bang Bang Bang upstairs…

  4. I was irritated by this play and disappointed that the Royal Court was staging it. Tilly is a caricature who I couldn’t care for nor attempt to understand; and I also disliked how Frances was portrayed as if she’s just stepped out of the SATC set.

  5. Sandown Says:

    “Jumpy” is a comedy directed at the kind of people who go to the Royal Court Theatre — leftist-feminist types from North London. Not a class of person noted for their sense of humour, nor for self-knowledge, so all credit to the Court for putting it on, and to their audience for laughing at themselves.

    No doubt a depressive reaction also helped to boost the bar-takings afterwards.

    Although the downstairs bar at the Court is usually full of local Chelsea folk, for whom the term “social commitment” means accepting a party invitation until a better one turns up.

  6. Simon L. Says:

    I’ve only been to the Royal Court Theatre at Sloane Square twice. The first time was in August 2011 for The Village Bike. It was superb. Very funny, very well-acted, a super cast, a dynamic script, edgy, irreverent and humorously moving. It was modern theatre at its best. The second time was for Jumpy. What a contrast! Jumpy was middle-class English TV sitcom comedy at its worst. Labored, predictable and completely lacking any of the charm and freshness that was a feature of The Village Bike. Please Royal Court try to be consistent! I know that it must be very hard to fulfill your mission of introducing new playwrights who in some way bring a new dimension to theatre, but surely it is not that hard to reject something that would easily be accepted by a totally undemanding TV sitcom selection committee for whom the target audience definition is “easily pleased from Welwyn Garden City, out on the town once a month, otherwise happy with TV pap”. I really hope that The Village Bike was the rule and Jumpy the exception. If it is the other way around, I am very pessimistic about the future of British theatre.

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