Review: Jumpy

Gail Watson as Frances and Pauline Knowles as Hilary in Jumpy
Gail Watson as Frances and Pauline Knowles as Hilary in Jumpy
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THE sign by the entrance of the Lyceum Theatre’s Howard Bar warns patrons of ‘full frontal male nudity’ in the Grindlay Street company’s latest production, Jumpy, by April De Angelis.

Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street

* * * *

It is, in many ways, a sign of the times, of the changing of the guard now new artistic director David Greig is getting settled into the challenge of carrying the Capital’s principal production-house forward.

Billed as an ‘irreverent comedy’ that ‘charts the perils of growing up and growing old with refreshing candour’, Jumpy is at once safe and unexpected.

At its heart is Hilary, a hard working mother of a teenage daughter, a teenage daughter who has started discovering the attractions of boys.

Like a feminist Ayckbourn, De Angelis couches her observations in the humour derived from the domestic turmoil of Hilary’s life.

It’s a study of a mother/daughter relationship that comes from the heart, perhaps because De Angelis wrote it as she turned 50, as her own daughter turned 16.

Both hilarious and in places tragic, the piece highlights that there is, as yet, no proven manual to avoiding the pitfalls of modern day parenting or growing old.

As the wine-loving Hilary, Pauline Knowles owns the stage and the play.

Instantly likeable and seldom off stage, she turns in a performance that never falters and provides the backbone of the production.

Whether laughing or crying, Knowles brings a simple truth to her character, indeed, from the moment she enters, her priority, to pour that first glass of wine of the day, a ripple of recognition runs through the audience.

As her volatile daughter Tilly, Molly Vevers proves the ideal foil. Sparky and sullen in equal measures, she appears to be the teenager from hell.

As breaks ups and break downs ensue, Richard Conlon as out-of-work actor Roland creates some deft comic moments.

Knowing, yet blindly existing in his own little bubble, Ronald is a fine creation with more than a hint of self-parody.

Cameron Crighton, meanwhile, as Cam, brings a lightness to proceedings and his scenes with Knowles, as Hilary flails to come to terms with her life, are poignant and particularly touching.

It falls to Gail Watson, however, with a show-stealing performance as Hilary’s larger than life friend Frances, to really ramp up the laughter - her burlesque fantasy is a director’s dream.

All this is played out on designer Jean Chan’s fabulously abstract set - a jumble of household items, from fridges to bookshelves, bathroom sinks to beds.

Cora Bissett directs with pace and a sure vision and the result is a fulfilling evening of surprisingly commercial theatre.

Run ends 12 November