Jumpy - Royal Court Theatre 2011
Managing a teenager and facing the prospect of redundancy whilst coming to terms with being 50 proves to be an ordeal for the central character, Hilary, in this new comedy drama from April De Angelis.
Hilary is married to Mark. Their daughter Tilly is 15 when we first meet her, but being under-age doesn't stop her going out to the local pub drinking with her mates. Hilary, however, worries less about Tilly's drinking than she does about her having sex. And she has cause for concern as one of Tilly's friends is pregnant and is going to bring the baby up on her own because her boyfriend was stabbed to death at Walthamstow bus station. Hilary's worries are substantiated when she finds Tilly at home one day with a boy dressed only in his 'boxers'. That discovery forces Hilary to meet with the boys' parents whereupon they decide to allow Tilly and boyfriend Josh to spend nights together at Hilary and Mark's home. The arrangement is not entirely without complications, and more are in store when Josh's parents split-up and his father takes a fancy to Hilary.
Ewan Stewart's Mark is a quietly sensible, down-to-earth sort who has troubles of his own with a shop that is struggling to attract enough customers. But we do not get to hear much about the issues he is facing, and he gets little or no sympathy from anyone in a play that largely focuses on the female characters. Richard Lintern's Roland gets more of a look-in maybe because he is an actor, but also because of his attraction to Hilary. Doon Mackichan provides considerable humour as Hilary's outrageous friend Frances who is desperate to get her hands on a man – and an acting job. Tamsin Greig takes the lead as Hilary, the harassed mum who seeks solace in nightly tipples of wine and discovers that being 50 does not necessarily mean being unattractive to the opposite sex.
Though there are a couple of surprises along the way, 'Jumpy' ends rather predictably and there really is little in it which is particularly new or different. The practical and conceptual niceties of dealing with a difficult teenager have been well-treated elsewhere, particularly by comedians such as Harry Enfield, and this play makes little progress in helping us to understand the teenage mind any better. And there seems equally less progress in Hilary's life. By the close, her situation is more or less the same as it was at the start apart from the fact that her troublesome offspring has flown the nest.
Nevertheless, April De Angelis's play is very funny, even if one of the events – Frances's extraordinary burlesque routine - borders on the bizarre. There are some terrific lines, well-drawn characters – particularly Bel Powley's excellent Tilly - and the occasional poignant moments too. The relationship between Hilary and Tilly is well-observed and realistic, though obviously managed and controlled to avoid excess. If you are a parent, you will certainly recognise some of the tight-rope walking Hilary and Mark have to endure in dealing with their teenage rebel, but judging from the laughter from all parts of the audience, there's plenty to interest and amuse all age-groups and non-parents alike.
"A funny, generous play."
Michael Billington for The Guardian
"Funny, deliciously rude and at times piercingly moving."
Charles Spencer for The Telegraph