Jumpy, Criterion Theatre, Earlsdon, Coventry, to May 12.
A kitchen sink dominates the set for many a scene. But Jumpy is no grim kitchen-sink drama from the mid-20th century. It’s more of a mid-life, middle-class comedy set in the post-feminist 21st century. We’re down south rather than "oop" north and that sink harbours a fridge with a seemingly bottomless supply of white wine.
Hillary glugs it at regular intervals as she comes to terms with two inescapable pressures. One is turning 50. The other is having a daughter of 15 going on 23 with a seemingly God-given right to what she likes, when she likes, with whomever she likes. And God help anyone who tries to stand in her way. Particularly her mum.
Tilly the teenager is played by Kelly Davison, making her first appearance at the Criterion, and berating her mother with some spectacular strops.
No wonder Hillary is struggling to cope. She’s a feminist of the old school with fond memories of standing shoulder to shoulder with other women at the Greenham Common air base in 1982. Emma Withers is utterly convincing in the role, trying to do the right thing even while slightly slurred by white wine and tempted by the men who intrude on her long-term marriage to Mark, best described as decent but dull.
The passage of time, from Tilly’s turbulent mid-teens to her departure for university, is marked by constant on-stage costume changes by Hillary. Not into anything too racy, you understand. That’s not her style.
Her friend Frances has no such qualms. She’s of a similar age and desperate to stay forever young. Deb Relton-Elves, tightly sweatered and pointedly booted in her first appearance, captures that desperation deliciously. Her vampish antics backfire, however, when it comes to seducing men. The more dowdily dressed Hillary has more luck in that
department, adding guilt to the pressures of dealing with a daughter with no apparent morals whatsoever.
Under Nicole Firth’s direction a strong supporting cast, including Jon Elves, Matt Sweatman and a splendidly acerbic Christine Evans, make the most of the play's jokes. But behind the comic moments are some telling comments on the way we live now and the ever-widening gap between the generations.
April De Angelis wrote the play at the end of the Naughties when she was turning 50, and it was first performed at the Royal Court in Sloane Square, SW1, in 2011. I suspect she would be pleasantly surprised should she venture to CV5 in the next City of Culture to see her play performed by a so-called “amateur” cast in a theatre that throws everything but the kitchen sink into its productions.
Pictured: Emma Withers as Hillary and Kelly Davison as Tilly
For tickets go to: www.criteriontheatre.co.uk