First Jerusalem, then Posh - now Jumpy, yet another West End smash transfer from the Royal Court. And this certainly has all the hallmarks of a hit production.
Tamsin Greig (Hilary), Doon Mackichan (Frances) in Jumpy at the Duke of Yorks Theatre, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
April De Anglelis’ dark comedy makes the audience a passenger alongside menopausal mother Hilary, played by Tamsin Greig, as her biological clock stops ticking just as that of her frighteningly angry daughter Tilly, played by Bel Powley, starts.
It’s at times sensitive, horrifying and very funny. De Angelis has created in Hilary such a real, rounded character - the sort of woman most other women will either think they are or want as a friend - that there is a palpable sense of desperation in the audience as we try to grip her sweating hand while she slithers off the precipice.
De Angelis has always had the knack of utterly capturing what it is to be a woman at various stages of their lives. It is edifying to other women and fascinating to men who feel they are being given a secret glimpse of “what women actually think”.
And so it is true here. Anyone middle-aged, certainly any middle-aged parent, and definitely any middle-aged parent of a teenage daughter, will resonate like a struck bell at Hilary’s escalating predicament.
Nina Raine offers subtle direction. De Angelis has a wonderful way with nuance and Raine allows that to remain unswamped by the rather more direct aspects of the script.
Greig, as she does so often, inhabits her character. She is one of our finest actresses when it comes not only to comedy but to finding the pathos within. She allows Hilary a jolly bravery, but subtly opens the chinks in her armour to show her fragile vulnerability beneath.
Doon Mackichan’s Frances is a great counterpoint - an outgoing single, childless actress who, as her raunchy dance routine demonstrates, has allowed desperation to over-rule reservation.
In both cases, it would be difficult to imagine anyone else taking the role. Mackichan has such presence, but also the skill to not let that upstage anyone else. There’s possibly not enough subtlety written into her character, but perhaps if there was, Frances would compete with Hilary for the central story.
The men, on the other hand, cannot compete. Ewan Stewart, as Hilary’s husband Mark, is utterly emasculated in his house of women - a mouse of a man. While actor Roland, played by Richard Lintern, has been reduced to constant self-examination by his awful bullying wife Bea (Amanda Root). They are bit parts in all of this. And quite right too. No menopause? No right to moan.
But De Angelis has placed perhaps her most frightening creation at the heart of this - Tilly, played by Bel Powley - Hilary’s terrifyingly angry teenage daughter. Powley sizzles with the rebellion of burgeoning adulthood tempered with the vulnerability of the child that still exists beneath the make-up and the bravado. It fuels the play, almost as much as the fears of every parent in the audience.