This play first appeared in October 2011 at the Royal Court Theatre. Much of the story will be a familiar one to parents who have had the tortuous, unenviable task of dealing with children passing through the teenage years with bodies flooded with hormones and whose sole aim in life appears to be to irritate their parents into an early grave. But 'Jumpy' is not just about a teenager, Tilly, struggling to cope with the transition from childhood to adulthood. It's also about her mother Hilary (Tamsin Greig) who, at 50, finds she also has to deal with age-related issues.
Tilly is 15 and about to take her GCSEs, but that doesn't stop her going out with her pregnant friend to the pub, nor inviting her boyfriend to her family home during a 'window' when no-one else is at home. When Tilly and her mother meet, conflict and tension fill the air like a mysterious vapour – no wonder Hilary reaches for the wine bottle so frequently. More than under-age drinking, Hilary is concerned that her daughter might end up getting pregnant. So, when it is obvious that Tilly is having sex with boyfriend Josh, Hilary decides that it is better to have them 'doing it' at her house than anywhere else. But that only leads to more problems.
Lizzie Clachan's all-grey set design is like an art gallery without the pictures, just waiting for colourful characters to bring it to life – and there are plenty on offer here. Tamsin Greig's Hilary is a liberal-minded, caring woman who manages a reading support unit which is facing the axe thanks to government cuts. Like many parents, she is over-protective and worries obsessively about her offspring which of course leads to continual conflict. Bel Powley is hugely impressive as teenager Tilly displaying the unmistakable qualities of a teenager intent of defying parental authority and belligerently taking charge of her own destiny. In fact, Ms Powley could easily have gone further in making her character even more wayward and defiant, but sensibly draws-back from excess. Hilary's friend Frances (superbly played by Doon Mackichan) is also struggling with being 50, but unlike Hilary has a more adventurous approach to life which she demonstrates in an extraordinary burlesque dance routine – complete with horse whip! There'sfine support from the rest of the cast, especially Ewan Stewart as Hilary's long-suffering, down-to-earth husband Mark who has to act as umpire in the battles between the two females in the household while simultaneously battling to save his business.
The first time I saw this play, I thought it ended predictably, and I still think that's the case, though that is not meant as a negative comment. Writer April de Angelis was right not to choose a more elaborate conclusion - the one she has opted for is authentic and real. I won't spoil the ending but I suspect it is typical of what most parents and teenagers experience after adolescence has run its frantic course – and it also explains the somewhat enigmatic title.
Though there are some very funny moments, 'Jumpy' isn't the kind of comedy where you leave the theatre with an aching stomach. In fact, there are times when it is rather poignant and others when it is moving and sad. But there are laughs aplenty in a piece which it is extremely well-written and excellently directed by Nina Raine. Richly entertaining and, at times, almost excruciatingly real it is certainly deserving of a West End run.
"It’s the funniest new play the West End has seen in ages. It’s not only funny, it’s painfully acute."
Dominic Cavendish for The Daily Telegraph
"How often do you get a West End play that's intelligent, funny and puts contemporary mid-life women centre stage?"
Lyn Gardner for The Guardian
"The writing is perceptive, even if sometimes it feels as though it has traded nuance for comic breadth... Politically the play could pack more of a punch, but Jumpy is worth seeing for Greig alone."
Henry Hitchens for The Evening Standard