First published in The Times, Tuesday November 1 2016
This revival of April de Angelis’s 2011 play was due to mark the return of Daniela Nardini (best known as Anna in This Life) to the Lyceum’s stage for the first time in 22 years. When Nardini was forced to withdraw for personal reasons, the redoubtable Pauline Knowles stepped in to replace her in the role of Hilary, the protagonist of this tragicomedy about a woman on the cusp of turning 50 who is battling crises on every front.
Knowles certainly gives the surest and most sympathetic performance in Cora Bissett’s production, but then she has the advantage of portraying the one character in de Angelis’s play to have been drawn in three dimensions. The nine-strong ensemble is stuffed with acting talent but most of the cast struggles to overcome the worn-weary stereotyping and crass dialogue.
Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic
It is a pity that de Angelis so frequently falls back on inanity because Jumpy is that rare thing: an attempt to explore the generation gap through the peculiarly complex relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter. As a young woman, Hilary was involved with left-wing politics and spent time at Greenham Common. Now she looks aghast at the life of her offspring, Tilly (Molly Vevers), who is in a sexual relationship at the age of 15, and who communicates with her mother during stringent five-minute slots.
Meanwhile, Hilary’s own hopes and ambitions have become raddled by a passionless marriage and a precarious job. “The best we can expect from life now is avoiding the worst,” she tells her friend, Frances (Gail Watson).
Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic
All of this would be more involving if the writer didn’t steer our sympathies so heavily towards the put upon Hilary while allowing the supporting characters (in particular the obnoxious Tilly) so few redeeming features. Worse, de Angelis dilutes the central conflict with promising sub-plots involving teenage pregnancy, divorce, middle-aged sexuality and inter-generational love affairs, none of which really amounts to much.
Bissett and her cast work hard to inject some humanity into the chilly proceedings, and there’s an eclectic soundtrack to brighten the scene changes. A bizarre (and increasingly unfunny) dance sequence at the end of the first act simply serves to further labour proceedings.