Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Tracking family fortunes

jumpy cast

 A grown up picture: Hilary (Sharon Clayton), Bea (Liz Adnitt), Roland (Robert Hicks) Mark (Martin Walker) and Francis (Mandy Yeomans). Pictures: Alastair Barnsley


Highbury Theatre Centre


HILARY and Mark have a marriage held together by apathy and convenience, routine has replaced romance; there is still affection but passion has long gone and sex is sporadic.

While Hilary prattles on Mark finds,”Mmmm” and “Yes, dear” are sufficient for most conversations, neither ignoring nor taking any real interest in what she is saying.

Having hit 50 she is worried about her job, whether she is too old to get a new one, and what happens if she is made redundant and Mark’s business fails. The worry means that even a shopping trip needs a glass, or two(ish) of wine to recover.

Roland and Bea, on the other hand, have a very emotional relationship, in Roland’s case his emotions, or at least his ego, are seeking solace elsewhere, while Bea seems to have just two emotions, angry and very angry, a real harridan of a wife. Sex in their marriage is but a distant memory, and not a good one at that.

The two families have little in common. Roland is a follower of Thespis, and it shows - “I’m an actor, I don’t know how to turn off the charm, it’s how I make a living” - Mark has his own shop, struggling to sell blinds and Hilary manages a literary support group. As for Bea . . . we never did find out what she did and never dared to ask.

Indeed they would never have met had it not been for Tilly, Hilary and Mark’s insolent, belligerent, truculent, and all the other ent words you can think of, daughter who has all the charm of a scorpion poked with a stick, and, as it takes two to tango, her relationship with Josh, the son thing of Roland and Bea.

The two know each other both from school and, as it turns out, Biblically.

Josh is the modern teenage boy of today, hooded, face unseen, oversize jeans at half mast, communicating largely in grunts and with a phone that can only be removed from his texting fingers under anaesthetic by a surgeon.

So the parents meet up to discuss the sexual adventures of their children, a meeting which in turn has unforeseen consequences as relationships falter and alter as both couples start to see the real state of their marriages. It also means Hilary falls under the ever wandering gaze of Roland who finds in her everything he looks for in a woman – which seems to be a full set of limbs, more or less, a pulse and a possibility..

Amid all this we have Francis, who is a man-hungry, and it seems man-starved actress, who is desperately trying to defy the march of time with her latest venture being into the gaudy, risqué world of burlesque. Her practice dance on aTilly and Hilaray weekend break in Norfolk is a gem, followed by the dance of the seven . . .well, two feather dusters.

And as a warning, example or role model, depending upon your point of view we have Lyndsey, pregnant and soon to be schoolgirl mum, played, incidentally, by Elizah Mulder from Holland, who gives us her own bit of hysteria as life unfolds.

Generations: Tilly (Eden Parke) and her mother, and sparring partner, Hilary (Sharon Clayton)

There is even room for a person who is normal, normal being relative to the rest, in Cam, a psychology student, who is a friend, back to Biblical terminology again, of Tilly and could well be the source of her reputation, unfounded as it turns out, for promiscuity.

Hilary, 50, who is hardly a cougar, as the modern parlance goes, does turn out to be a milf (look it up) as far as Cam, 22, is concerned.

Sharon Clayton walks the fine line between being still sexy and a woman, and being just the wife and a mum, all the while finding life swirling around her beyond her control with a husband in tow and two men looking to have their wicked way wth her. It is a huge part and she carries it well.

Eden Parke as Tilly is a great foil, the truculent teenager who know everything there is to know about practically nothing. Mum and daughter might be at war most of the time but they carry the play well together.

Martin Walker’s Mark is a steady sort of chap, even tempered, a little put upon, with an inclination to take the line of least resistance, while much the same could be said of Roland, the egotist lothario played with clinging charm by Robert Hicks, the line of least resistance in his case being the woman most likely to.

Liz Adnitt has a nice line in unsmiling fury, a fixed frown and a voice barking with hysteria as Bea while Mandy Yeoman's Francis travels through life on a cloud of hope and sexuality – she is determined to not grow old without a fight . . . and more sex n a performance bubbling with life..

We don’t see much of Jack Hobbis as Josh, a few grunts here and there, but he makes up for it as Cam, the sensitive seducer.

There are some moments of real humour, such as Hilary and Mark in bed trying to read Dickens while the dulcet tones of creaking springs under the horizontal aerobics of Josh and Tilly can be heard, and this 2011 play by April de Angelis will cause a few uncomfortable moments and flashbacks for married couples and parents of current and past teenage children although perhaps not as many as you might expect unless you live in a very strange relationship.

Some of the laughs are universal but other moments bring scattered chuckles, and knowing groans as individual parents, or even children relive their own personal memories.

The play looks at relationships between couples and between children and parents, and, despite the constant rebellion and downright cussedness of teenagers, they do care when it really matters – it’s just that most of the time it doesn’t.

We see parents pander to them to avoid confrontation, then put their foot down and finally reach a sort of agreement,  a ceasefire – we call it growing up.

The play was a response to complaints there were not enough lead roles for middle-aged women and De Angelis adds a little social spice, stirring in a little women’s lib – Hilary even protested at Greenham Common – as well as some political comment.

The F word abounds and such is its failing ability to shock all but the most prudish maiden aunt these days it can only be a matter of time before it appears in ads. It has lost its effectiveness and value by overuse but the C word still elicits an audible gasp from the audience, particularly here, when used in an incongruous political statement which had little to do with what had gone on before or came after.

Malcolm Robertshaw plain set is simple and effective, lit well by Stuart Sampson, and director Ian Appleby brought out the humour and underlying conflicts, and individual foibles nicely, although he had a battle on his hands, as indeed did the cast, to maintain any pace.

The play is episodic, with the narrative snapshots, almost interrelated sketches, and with 18 scenes the result is rather like a football match with a whistle-happy ref. As soon as momentum started to build and a scene found its rhythm, out went the lights, on came the music and we waited to start again, which is a matter of structure rather than a reflection on what is a good performance achieving what it sets out to do. You will have to wait to the final part of the final scene by the way to find out why it is called Jumpy.18-04-15

Roger Clarke


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