Jumpy, Royal Court, London
Painfully funny portrayal of a woman on the verge of a breakdown
Monday 24 October 2011
Set in the repressed 1950s, Mike Leigh's latest play, Grief, dramatises the tension between a mother and her 15- year-old daughter.
The tight, festering disputes there are over duffel coats, permission for a glass of sherry before dinner, the swotting schedule for O levels. Though it ends in disaster, it all looks a doddle by comparison with the equivalent present-day relationship in Jumpy, April De Angelis's wincingly funny new play at the Royal Court. But then, as the heroine remarks, we live in a culture that subjects teenage girls to a constant bombardment of images of air-brushed, hyper-sexualised women. No wonder they feel that they "have to be sexual to be human".
Hilary (excellent Tamsin Greig) once protested at Greenham Common but now, as a 50-year-old middle-class mother with a shop-owner husband, her campaigns for change are inclined to be concentrated on her stroppy daughter, Tilly (Bel Powley), who dresses like a tart and is discovered to be having sex with her boyfriend (likewise 15). Tilly's hormonal surge and undisguised contempt for maternal concern coincides with Hilary's grieving for her own lost youth, her worry that the cuts will axe her job with a reading support unit, and the splintering – as she and her husband struggle to deal with teenage precocity and pregnancy – of a marriage that had latterly been held together by habit.
Adroitly directed by Nina Raine, the play is an ebullient mix of broad comedy and subtler intuitions and it continually makes you writhe with recognition. Hilary's unreconstructed belief that a woman should know what she actually wants and not just crave male validation is wittily contrasted with the outlook of the other females in the play. To Tilly, who's never heard of the Berlin Wall but knows everything about "vagina neck", that position is meaningless. Man-hungry, envious of the young and desperate to revive her flagging theatrical career, Doon Mackichan's slapstick Frances has convinced herself that her terminally embarrassing burlesque routines count as "post-feminist irony". Meanwhile, the mother of Tilly's deflowerer (all embattled, gorgon-glare in Sarah Woodward's droll portrayal) proves to be a monster of manipulative double standards, insisting that, where unwanted teenage pregnancy is concerned, it's the boy who pays the higher price.
Greig is terrific in the central role – effortlessly shifting between the comedy of deadpan, incredulous exasperation and movingly understated, wrung-out grief.
To 19 November (020 7565 5000)
interviewThe producer and activist, Trudie Styler, whose film 'Filth' is up for five film awards, is tapping into the industry's neglected female talent
interviewHer estate has become the nation's glossiest food empire
theatreTheatre's hitmaker Daniel Evans on 'Oliver' and bringing 'The Full Monty' to the stage
food + drinkMichelin-starred Tom Sellers on being this year's hottest property
tvParents (and kids) rejoice! A new wave of fantastic family entertainment is here
booksGeese, gorillas, grandads... and growing up
food + drinkHow one grocery e-tailer is gearing up for the Yuletide rush
food + drink
travelFor broadcaster Mishal Husain, a long-haul Club Med holiday was a chance for her family to explore its sense of 'zen' and 'animation'
Arts & Ents blogs
The 50 Best Christmas songs: Bells continue to ring for the Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York'
Sherlock series 3: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman provide teasers for the biggest comeback in British television
Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke and Lady Gaga attacked by Noel Gallagher in 2013 music rant
Back in Black (Sabbath): On the comeback trail with Ozzy Osbourne and crew
Back from the dead? Family Guy's Brian Griffin 'to make a comeback' after fan petition
- 1 Hundreds arrested as Canadian police smash worldwide paedophile ring
- 2 Sherlock series 3: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman provide teasers for the biggest comeback in British television
- 3 Why Barcelona chose Everton to educate their latest prodigy
- 4 Mass murder in the Middle East is funded by our friends the Saudis
- 5 Japan cracks down on leaks after scandal of Fukushima nuclear power plant
- < Previous
- Next >