By Laura Ings Self
There seems to be a rather pleasing theme running through BLT’s 2017 season where strong women and the pursuit of feminism are at the forefront of several narratives. April de Angelis’ Jumpy is no exception – rather it is the ringleader, flying the feminist flag with zeal.
Director Colleen Batson’s take on the script draws out each of the different threads of the play’s feminist manifesto as we follow central character Hilary (Julie Binysh) and her somewhat tumultuous relationships. A wife and mother who has just turned fifty, Hilary was at Greenham Common – albeit only briefly – and struggles to reconcile her feminist belief in women’s choices, with her fifteen-year-old daughter’s enactment of those choices, much to the chagrin of her daughter (Naomi Cunningham) and the gentle frustration of her rather more lenient husband (Richard Gissing).
Whilst daughter Tilly is out having sex, neurotic Hilary contemplates her satisfaction with her own relationship, often over a glass or two of wine with best friend, Frances (Emma Berryman). Through Tilly’s boyfriend Josh (Robert O’Neill) we meet his parents Bea (Alison Green) and Roland (Paul Campion), the latter of whom expresses a real interest in Hilary, which she dismisses at first before deciding to engage with it.
We watch as Hilary’s life goes through many changes – including separating from her husband – and watch her experiment with new relationships and burlesque dancing, almost as though she were going through a second adolescence herself, before settling back in to the comforting and familiar world of her marriage as she finally watches Tilly fly the nest and head off to uni.
Tony Jenner’s set was rather plain and utilitarian, which allowed us to move from various settings within the characters’ homes as well as a trip to Norfolk and a barbecue on the beach, but the stark walls meant that scenes in Hilary and Mark’s living room did feel slightly minimalist rather than homely.
Whilst the set was simple, the lighting, designed by Emma Christmas, was used extremely effectively, and worked intuitively with the sound effects to help create the world of the play. Some of the scene changes were on the lengthy side, presumably to allow for costume changes, but some interesting lighting effects and an excellent choice of soundtrack helped to make these pauses not seem too long. The sound design was excellent, not just the choices of incidental music representing both parent and child, but the diegetic sound effects too – from text alerts to finding an appropriate track to accompany some burlesque dancing – were well chosen and executed.
Julie Binysh gave a solid performance, creating some lovely and tender moments between Hilary and the other characters, notably Frances and Tilly, although I would liked to have seen a fraction more strength and passion from this ex-protestor, feminist mother. The mother-daughter dynamic played out beautifully between Hilary and Tilly and was wholly relatable from both points of view.
Naomi Cunningham gave an assured debut as Tilly; her teenage ennui with her parents and their interference in her life cringingly recognisable to us all. I hope to see her on the BLT stage again soon. Emma Berryman was a delight as Hilary’s charismatic BFF, Frances. From her self-deprecating humour, to the burlesque dancing, to her tolerance of her friend’s neuroses, every moment Berryman was on stage was well crafted and hysterically funny.
Paul Campion gave a beautifully flamboyant performance as Roland, an actor stuck in a dissatisfying marriage and father of Tilly’s boyfriend, again creating some wonderfully comedic moments. Richard Gissing (Mark), Edie Nelson (Lyndsey), Gavin Dyer (Cam), Alison Green (Bea) and Robert O’Neill (Josh) also all gave great performances and offered the audience lots of laughs, with Lyndsey’s clueless rambling and Cam’s slightly creepy Oedipus complex being amongst some of the funniest moments.
Overall, this was a wonderfully entertaining piece of theatre that had us rolling in the aisles, whilst still making some interesting points about choice and autonomy and how hard it can be to let our children go.