“Hilary is 50, a strong intelligent woman who once protested at Greenham Common. Then she felt she could change the world, now, she can’t even change her daughters mind about wearing that skirt. Hilary’s job is on the line, her marriage is on life support, her best friend won’t grow up and her teenage daughter has gone off the rails…”
A reunion with my former cast members, and a free ticket to see the first preview of Jumpy; what a way to spend a Thursday. And it only seems fair to follow up our show with a comedy – where our sombre message had less than a handful of laughs, Jumpy fought for those quiet moments of pause.
The performances I can’t fault. Richard Conlon and Gail Watson have their comedic art down to a T, and there’s always something magical that happens when a cast truly gels for a show, not least when their comedic actors are allowed to shine. A play that is, for the most part, a long-winded lament on middle age and parenting, the characters of Roland and Frances are more than just comic relief – they’re integral commentators on the play’s action.
Fundamentally, however, this is a play of revolving stereotypes who do nothing but feed each others ineptitude. Everyone struggles to communicate,no one is getting their way, and every scene is one clichéd domestic after another. The teenagers are moody, and the adults are scared of approaching fifty, in a nutshell. And while everything is entirely played for laughs, the format, the characters, and the plot of family dramas are as stale and tired as the blurb makes it sound. There were, however, one or two moments of scripted gold where Hilary let her daughter know exactly what she was thinking – had this instead been a play where parents said the things they hold back as their child matures, then I may have felt differently about the evening.
All in all, it’s hard to envisage what audience this play is for. Sitting with a group of teenagers on one side who said they would never bring their mums to a show like this, and with our (ex-)elder chorus of women on the other who probably wouldn’t bring their children either, I’m at a loss. While its high energy and performances are to be praised, when the curtain closes, it’s even harder to know what you are left with. Their daughter has departed for university, and the marriage is presumably on the mend because Hilary released pent up tension with her daughter’s ex-flavour of the month. But why is it always the emotionally-starved wife that has to seek out affection to make a turnaround? If Hilary treated her marriage like she did her daughter, it is nothing short of impressive that her husband didn’t pull the plug sooner.
‘Jumpy’, Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh