Theatre review: Jumpy, The Duke of York’s Theatre

Tamsin Greig gives a masterclass in nervy understatement in West End transfer of play about fraught mother-daughter relationship

�Following on from a run at the Royal Court, April De Angelis’s portrayal of the complex dynamics of modern feminism and mother-daughter relationships transfers to the West End. It makes for a punchy evening, if not an altogether dramatically satisfying one.

As a student in the 1970s, Hilary rebelled against her conventional upbringing by embracing radical feminism and campaigning at Greenham Common. At the ‘mentalpausal’ age of fifty, she finds her job under threat, her marriage stale, and her sexually precocious 15-year-old daughter entirely unresponsive to her strongly held feminist principles.

De Angelis’s episodic structure features some hilariously funny moments, mixing social commentary with a touch of the grotesque.

Tamsin Greig gives a masterclass in nervy understatement against Tilly the teenage terror (Bel Powley), strutting around in miniskirts and stilettos. However, although Greig and Powley make engaging sparring partners, I was never entirely convinced that they were related.

Much of the humour comes from Doon Mackichan as Hilary’s doom-mongering best friend Frances, a child-free, underemployed actress. Her nightmarish ‘burlesque’ routine performed as an exhibition of ‘post-feminist irony’ during a relaxing weekend in Norfolk is the ultimate in self-delusion – wrong on so many levels, but impossible to look away.

Amanda Root makes a striking cameo as Tilly’s boyfriend’s brittle mother, as does Richard Lintern as her smirking thespian husband. The scene in which the two families come together when confronted by the prospect of a teenage pregnancy is a scathing attack on ‘modern’ parenting in which no one holds back on the razor blades.

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It’s overlong, political arguments are never fully developed, and by the end, outrageousness is prioritised over credible character development. However, for all of Hilary’s simplistic rhetoric, the idea of women sticking together is more heartening than the thought of women against women.

* Jumpy is at The Duke of York’s Theatre in St Martin’s Lane, WC2, until November 3