Monday, 30 November -0001

Theatre Review: 14 September

This modern take on mothers and daughters will strike a comic nerve

Written by Georgina Brown


georgina-brown 2805I wasn't the only one in the audience of Jumpy, April De Angelis's bruisingly funny, moving play about mothers and daughters who wondered if the playwright had bugged my house and used the evidence but with the names changed. During the interval, the chap behind me said his ribs were killing him because his wife kept digging him with her elbows and hissing: 'That's us!'

It isn't just teenage Tilly's door-slamming, glaring and grunting that strike a nerve. It's her excruciating habit, shared by the vast majority of children, of wasting their lives frantically texting their friends, rather than engaging in anything vaguely resembling a conversation with a parent. It's her father's spineless compliance with his daughter's every request. Most piercing of all, however, it's her mother's exasperation and heartfelt grief when she hits the big 5-0 and her once assured sense of herself as a parent, a wife, a feminist and a working woman suddenly seems under siege from all directions.

Tilly, horribly well played by Bel Powley, is a mass and a mess of contradictions. She still has the plump cheeks of a child but is sleeping with her boyfriend and can't bear to hear the C-word – 'contraception'. Her mother (Hilary) wants to be modern but also wants to protect her child. In her heart of hearts, Tilly's behaviour disgusts her.

Hilary can look back with satisfaction to the days when she demonstrated solidarity at Greenham Common. She believed that women stood for something, were part of something bigger. Tilly, meanwhile, is supposed to be studying for GCSEs but the only thing she applies herself to with any seriousness, is putting on eyeliner. Moreover, Hilary's oldest friend is raging against the dying of the sexual light with a vigorous attempt to re-ignite her acting career as a burlesque dancer. Doon Mackichan, dressed to thrill in a leather corset, couldn't be more hilariously embarrassing.

Jumpy is by no means perfect. The male characters are underwritten. But Tamsin Greig as Hilary is outstanding. She arrives on stage, bogged down by hessian bags-for-life, but more so by her misery. It seeps out as eloquently in her non-verbal language as in what she says, in her tears and the way her fingers touch her face. See her, and drag teenage offspring along. It will work wonders.

Duke of York's Theatre, St Martin's Lane, London WC2, until 3 November: 0844-871 7627, www.jumpytheplay.com

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